I found Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher from the first half of the 1800’s, and was immediately intrigued.

I was surprised to find his work so religious, and to find that it was lyrical and searching, not rational and a dissertation.

I know that when I listen to the lectures on it, and understand more of what I’ve read, some of the magic will be gone. But for now I’m still at the stage where what I’ve read has validated and articulated some of the things I always knew but always questioned. I feel less alone.

On faith:

Love,after all, has its priests in the poets, and occasionally one hears a voice that knows how to keep it in shape; but about faith one hears not a word, who speaks in this passion’s praises?

Faith, according to Kierkegaard, is the next step after philosophy. It’s more than rational. In Chassidic terminology, למעלה מטעם ודעת – higher than reason and knowledge.

On choosing the finite over the infinite:

But to be able to lose one’s understanding and with it the whole of the finite world whose stockbroker it is and then on the strength of the absurd get exactly the same finitude back again, that leaves me aghast (amazed).

The mind can take you as far as the infinite. It can lead you to reject this world for something more. But only faith, or what Kierkegaard calls ‘the absurd’ can bring you back, can make you recognize that the true challenge is to find meaning here. That’s the existentialist in him. Forget the spiritual, live in the temporal.

Existentialism should be incompatible with religion and faith. But not in this case. The Chassidic concept of Dira B’tachtonim, bringing G-d here, and not just G-d, but the ultimate essence of G-d – what is it not a celebration of the temporal? Of course according to Dira B’tachtonim, it’s a meeting of the finite and infinite, not one one over the other. Nevertheless.

And my favorite:

What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. (In his personal journal)

He says that every life has one content, in Hegel terminology ‘an unconditional commitment’ to an all encompassing purpose, that provides the content, the direction, the meaning of his life. Until it’s found a person won’t ever truly be a self. Some people never do find it, or commit to it.

Thoughts on ‘Fear and Trembling’ by Soren Kierkegaard, and the lectures on the book by Hubert Dreyfus at UC Berkley, found in iTunesU.

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