on kierkegaard in vegas

Sitting in the Vegas terminal between a Chinese family and some slot machines. No one is gambling on a Wednesday night. My connecting flight leaves at 11:59pm. I’m anxious to cross over to east coast time, which is the future. My life is about moving forward lately. As a creature of habit (and a handful of bad ones at that), I’ve made a thing of being stuck in the past to a certain extent. I’m nostalgic by nature but at some point, it becomes a hindrance instead of something cute.

Swedish crime/mystery novels are a new favorite. There’s something about Stockholm that lends itself to creepiness.

I have a stack of library books at home that towers over my bed. I’m quite proud of it. Of the stack, I only took two along with me for this trip. One of them is a book of essays on Kierkegaard. He came to my attention when he was mentioned in another book I was reading, The Philosophy of Mad Men. Strangely, I feel like this Danish philosopher/psychologist/theologist reached through the years, all the way from the 1840s, to pat me on the shoulder and say, “Hey, it’s okay.” He seemed to have a way to reconcile the big things I’ve been going through lately.

“Kierkegaard maintains that most people are not selves at all. Being a self, being an individual, is challenging and it is something that few attempt. Instead we “construct ourselves” so that we are acceptable to others – we become a copy; we put on a mask. Truly being a self is too hard and one of Kerkegaard’s main aims in forcingus to look at ourselves is to ask ourselves who we are…”

“The lack of being an individual, our failure to e a self, leads to despair — a fact which most of us may never acknowledge. We convince ourselves that life is “happy,” that there is meaning and purpose to our lives, when often this is not the case. We throw ourselves into activity of various kinds which is subconsciously designed to prevent us having to think deeply about ourselves at al. However, instead of considering despair as negative, Kierkegaard actually believes that the pain of despair can help us to recognize our situation. Thus despair is positive as it can force us to look at ourselves more deeply — to consider who we are. This can be a prelude to our taking charge of our live, beginning the long painful, slow journey to being an individual.”

 

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