Søren Says

… the torment of despair is precisely the inability to die. In this it has much in common with the condition of the mortally ill person who is in the throes of death but cannot die. Thus to be sick unto death is to be unable to die, yet not as though there were hope of life. No, the hopelessness is that even the last hope, death, is gone. When death is the greatest danger, one hopes for life. But when one learns to know the even more horrifying danger, one hopes for death. When danger is so great that death has become the hope, then despair is the hopelessness of not even being able to die.

~ The Sickness Unto Death p48


  1. Ironic Catholic says

    Really, if SK had just read John of the Cross, he would have been just fine. And a Catholic to boot. 😉

    • Quin Finnegan says

      Well said, IC, as always.

      It does seem that K was at times more in love with the leap than that towards which must be leapt—but this is an exaggeration. I’m glad we have them both. One of the great things about reading Kierkegaard is that there is room to make these moves ourselves. In that way he might be the best “writer as directional sign” ever.

  2. Recalling that I first read TSUD in high school, I think this passage was one of my first inklings that Christianity was a more serious thing than we were led to believe by most of my teachers…

    I won’t say it led to a “search” in the Binx Bollings sort of way, but it definitely left a few doors open in my mind. It was around this time, too, incidentally, that I stopped receiving communion (I worked backward toward Flannery O’Connor’s thesis of “to hell with it” being a symbol and nothing but). I’ve since revised my thesis on the matter, of course…


  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Very interesting, Mr JOB. Looking forward to hearing more about this next summer …

    I remember meeting an Israeli paratrooper around the time I read this, and hearing him tell about how much he appreciated combat. Life had more value lived on the edge … quite literally taking a leap. It wasn’t so much that life without combat lacked meaning, but that it was impossible to imagine one without the other.

  4. I think there is a lot in what you all say. SK’s thought has merits and flaws, but I remember one of my grad professors (in philosophy, not theology, figures) striding into class with Fear and Trembling in his hand, thumping it on his podium, and half-shouting, This man will MAKE you a believer!

    No one lays out the road and the choices better.

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