On Despair

Kierkegaard!“Is despair an excellence or a defect? Purely dialectically, it is both. The possibility of this sickness is man’s superiority over the animal, for it indicates infinite sublimity that he is spirit. Consequently, to be able to despair is an infinite advantage, and yet to be in despair is not only the worst misfortune and misery—no, it is ruination;” writes the psedonym Anti-Climacus in Soren Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death. While the word ‘despair’ may tend to sound inherently negative, Kierkegaard is using it to express what is potentially one of the most beautiful things about human existence: the creative love of a dynamic self.

What Kierkegaard is encouraging, in my opinion, is for the individual to look beyond one’s close-knit subjective reality and strike a balance between how both the physical and spiritual self interact with the universe at large. Too much time spent living an aesthetic life of hedonistic debauchery (something I find I know all too much about) is incredibly destructive to the spiritual self, just as a life of absolute, blind commitment to ethical ideal is destructive to the physical self and well-being. Additionally, these two aspects of self are inexorably tied together in intricate minute ways, and so a balance between faith and doubt, spiritual and physical, must needs be achieved. The individual identity is constructed in partnerships between the individual and other individuals as well as between the individual and the greater universe (or God for you organized religion types). Thusly, I encourage open dialogue, a commitment to personal morals, a recognition of the limitations of the individual subjective reality as well as a little fun now and again.

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