There was occasional talk of obtaining a teaching position or of writing a book, but nothing ever came of it. It I do not teach. This chapter offers a reading of Søren Kierkegaard's philosophical work The Sickness unto Death to illuminate his ideas about the nature of the self in contrast to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's understanding of the human being. In the book’s opening chapter, for instance, originally published as a standalone essay in The Baffler, Scialabba considers various ways in which a government could do more for its chronically depressed citizens, including giving them some form of financial assistance. Every weekday, get our new Deeper Walk devotional delivered to your inbox! But as Scialabba writes elsewhere, being a modern individual also brings its own difficulties: “In one perspective, modern intellectual history seems a kind of ascetic frenzy, a continual renunciation of consoling, structure-providing, community-creating illusions.”, Scialabba is deeply sensitive to what is too often the exclusive province of conservative thinkers: religious belief, metaphysical suffering, and communal loyalty. Making the difficult choice not to believe in one’s childhood faith, as Scialabba did when he was a young man, is one of those modern choices, and without question one of the more difficult. The afflicted is thus condemned to look beyond a strictly medical treatment, but what that means exactly remains stubbornly elusive for most. speak, therein lies the distress and anguish. of Abraham to conceal his purpose from Sarah, Eleazar, and Isaac? we ask time and again as we read through Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Kazantzakis, a self-definition, and peace in the midst of a perpetually unsettled world he sees as an unavoidable consequence of existing. and resignation, they are my greatest source of shame and failure. For whatever reason, Scialabba has not had luck with any of them, and at age 57 felt that his depression was “worse than ever.” A string of romantic relationships had gone nowhere and his professional career was stalled. The afflicted is thus condemned to look beyond a strictly medical treatment, but what that means exactly remains stubbornly elusive for most. ― Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, What the age needs is not a genius—it has had geniuses enough, but a martyr, who in order to teach men to obey would himself be obedient unto death. In an introductory note, Scialabba refers to these records as “a form of anti-writing,” since they were never meant for publication and can hardly be said to have been written in any literary sense at all. In an essay on the Australian sociologist John Carroll, he goes so far as to entertain the idea that modernity may have been a mistake. In the interview with Christopher Lydon, Scialabba quotes D. H. Lawrence: “Man has little needs and deeper needs. From here we find the fundamental precept existentialism: Reading thousands of words each day tortures me with the He has never been on staff anywhere or held an academic post at a college or university; until 2006, he’d never published a book. But the human proclivity to narrative is irrepressible, and surely one way of dealing with depression is to counterbalance its incomprehensibility with, precisely, narrative. And therefore someday, not only my writings but my whole life, all the intriguing mystery of the machine will be studied and studied. Upon returning to Cambridge, he was pronounced “a very troubled man [with] borderline personality with obsessive-compulsive features.”. Here’s a look back at some of Kierkegaard’s most powerful quotes. disposition, most questions which it is beyond a man’s power to answer ― The Journals of Kierkegaard, Present-day Christendom really lives as if the situation were as follows: Christ is the great hero and benefactor who has once and for all secured salvation for us; now we must merely be happy and delighted with the innocent goods of earthly life and leave the rest to Him. chaos of countless divergent, screaming voices, slowly killing me with And even though he lived a relatively short life (he died in his early 40s), his writings on faith, the Church, ethics and the nature of God have gone on to have a profound influence on Western Culture and the legions of Christian thinkers who’ve encountered them ever since. with our existence through a meditation on Abrahams duty before The concept of the sickness unto death must be understood…in a peculiar sense…. stands between us, in our alternately insightful and pathetic search for It is only in the last decade or so that he has begun to enjoy something like a reputation, eliciting fulsome praise from James Wood, Vivian Gornick, and the late Richard Rorty, not to mention the admiration of a generation of younger writers.  Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted. the mind, the heart, and the soul. we make and the reality we create for ourselves. Alastair Hannay (London: Penguin, 1985) 113. between aesthetics and ethics, a place from which we can view their ceaseless ― The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, God creates out of nothing. To escape it, I would do anything.”, Yet the pleasure, if we can call it that, of reading How to be Depressed becomes more vexed in the book’s second, and longest, chapter, “Documentia.” It is an account of the author’s mental life viewed through the treatment notes of the many psychiatrists and therapists he has been a patient of since 1969, when he experienced his first depressive episode. And then, when I actually did it, walked out the door, I discovered that religion had been a kind of drug for me, or a safety net or scaffolding. And from being in this inevitable contradiction, Kierkegaard, Browse: Fiction, Author Interviews, Essays, Film, Music Interviews, Visuals, Poetry, Book Blog, Editors' Blog. Alastair Hannay (London: Penguin, 1989) 52. In one of his essays, Scialabba describes the thrill of first encountering Kant’s famous definition of Enlightenment as “humankind’s emergence from its own, self-imposed minority,” and as a progressive he is necessarily proud to be modern, if by modern we mean valuing democracy, individual autonomy, and the freedom to question tradition and authority. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further. I can’t say it’s something I particularly enjoyed reading, but I don’t regret it either. ― The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle.
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