In his short life Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1814-1855) wrote over seven thousand pages of papers and journal entries, enough writing to fill an entire bookshelf. This Penguin collection organizes Kierkegaard's journals into eight major phases of the philosopher's life, from Kierkegaard's early 20s to the last years of his life before he collapsed on the street at age 43. There is great insight and wisdom here. There is also wry humor and penetrating observations on 19th century European society and the ever-present existential challenges of human experience . To give a small taste of what a reader will find in the 600+ pages of this book, below are several of Kierkegaard's pithy entries along with my very brief comments:
From the chapter: 1834-1836: THE FIRST JOURNAL ENTRIES
"People understand me so little that they fail even to understand my complaints that they do not understand me." ---------- Do you think you understand Kierkegaard? What do you think the Danish philosopher would think of your understanding?
"Damn and hell, I can abstract from everything but not from myself. I can't even forget myself when I sleep." ---------- With reflections (and curses) like this, it is no surprise Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism!
From the chapter: 1848-1849: THE WIDENING OF THE RIFF
"No wonder I am thought mad. All that supports my endeavor is what might recommend it in eternity but secularly gives it a bad name and deprives me of respect. I earn nothing from it, it is not my livelihood or my job. And I am alone in a little country - where nevertheless a thousand priests are paid into thinking they are Christians." ---------- A pointed observation about established religion if there ever was one. And quite a statement of how the general public views a philosopher and original thinker.
From the last 2 chapters:
THE TRUTH IS NAKED
"To go swimming one takes off one's clothes; to pursue the truth one must take one's time in a much more inward sense, divesting oneself of a much more inward attire of thoughts, ideas, selfishness and the like, before one is naked enough." --------- What do we in the 21st century have to unlearn to be better prepared to see the naked truth? Perhaps our first step would be to turn off our plasma screens and unplug our devices pumping in news or entertainment or music.
"Slight, thin and delicate, denied practically all the physical conditions which, compared with others, could qualify me, too, as a whole human being; melancholy, sick in my mind, profoundly and inwardly a failure in many ways, I was given one thing: an eminently astute mind, presumably to keep me from being completely defenseless." ---------- Starting from his earliest year in the schoolyard, Kierkegaard had to do battle shackled with his frail, prematurely old body and a childhood poisoned by his melancholic father. But his mind was so unbelievably sharp. Thus, young Søren was given the nickname 'The Fork'. Fortunately for lovers of literary philosophy, SK was also given a natural gift to write!
"In our times persecution just doesn't exit - because Christendom has been made so lacking in character that really there is nothing to persecute." ---------- I recall a Kierkegaard quote where he observed the prime predictable fact of modern-day society is the abysmal lack of character. I have taken this quote as a challenge at every phase of my own life.
SOCRATES - THE OTHER
"Socrates always talked exclusively of food and drink - but really he was talking and thinking all the time of the infinite. The others are always talking, and in the loudest voices, about the infinite, but really they are talking and thinking all the time about food and drink." ---------- Two rhetorical questions: What is the prime topic of your conversation? What is the truth for which you are willing to live and die?
"We are warned against introversion; you might just as well warn against Christianity." ---------- You don't have to be a follower of the Christian faith to see how we all must retain the integrity of our inner life.
I do not read these journal entries the way I read a novel, from beginning to end; rather, I read and reread one entry at a time. There is enough literary philosophy contained in this book to keep me going until I'm at least a 100 years old.
- Paperback: 704 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 1 edition (14 May 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780140445893
- ISBN-13: 978-0140445893
- ASIN: 0140445897
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.1 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 558 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item