Existential Comics: Kierkegaard Relates to the Common Man
The most abstract idea conceivable is the sensuous in its elemental originality. But through which medium can it be presented? Only through music. Kierkegaard, Either/Or
Here Zappa enlists Allen’s help to play a piece of music featuring two bicycles. Hilarious!
This one is for JOB, of course.
… but here’s the beginning of an epic poem about the time a young man met the man himself:
November 22, 1989
The day I met Walker, the rain had fallen
in Louisiana sheets, and I’d left
my tent illicitly pitched in the Bogue Falaya
State Park, along with a bookish bottle
of Early Times I’d taken a few swigs off of
in the dark the night before as pine cones pitched
and fell outside as if in triadic morse code
from Flannery in heaven telling me grace was in
the river. And alligators, too, I reckoned.
I walked the cracked sidewalks of Covington, aimlessly,
dazed by the wonder of seeing vines sprouting
through the cracks in a sacramental vision,
a concelebration of the namer and the named,
and lept across the flashflood puddles
as I made my way towards no destination
but found myself in The Kumquat bookstore
to oggle shelves bursting with signed copies
of The Moviegoer, The Last Gentleman, Love in the Ruins, Lancelot,
The Second Coming, The Thanatos Syndrome, Lost
in the Cosmos, The Message in the Bottle, books
that had changed (and continue to change) my life.
Oh Walker (Oh Rory) I was twenty-four
and pining for a woman I was also
on the run from in triangular
despair (yet thanks in part to you I also
was aware, at least a little — a foothold —
of the despair, contrary to that Kierkegaardian
epigraph, precisely pitched though it is).
Oh Walker: so I bought a stack of books,
some for me and some for those I loved,
and left instructions with the keeper of
the store to have you encode, in your
physician’s scrawl, your cracked prescriptions
where the vines of love and truth might grow from bourbon
and ink, the cumulative bliss of limitation,
where you and I might clear a space for being.
In fishing about for a topic for this upcoming Percy conference, I’ve been reading some Kierkegaard again, or rather one of Kierkegaard’s very best commentators, Claire Carlisle. Here’s a great passage from her Guide for the Perplexed, which I think is just excellent as a précis of Kierkegaard’s entire work.
One of the interesting—and also potentially confusing—features of Kierkegaard’s interpretation of truth is the way it encompasses both a philosophical notion of knowledge and a theological notion of salvation. In the context of Christianity, the correspondence between truth and salvation can be summed up by Jesus’s words, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, which suggest that truth and the way to salvation (or eternal life) are one and the same thing. This is the kind of truth that Kierkegaard is interested in: not just the truth that Jesus embodies, but that which is required of all those who, in following Jesus, have embarked on the task of becoming Christians and are seeking salvation. As a philosopher, Kierkegaard wants to present an accurate expression of this truth of Christianity. This is very much what Hegel had already tried to do, but Kierkegaard felt that Hegel had falsified Christianity by attempting to incorporate it into a philosophical system.
Kierkegaard highlights an opposition between the truth of Christianity and the truth of philosophy, and this means that in order to say what it means to be a Christian he creates, rather paradoxically, and anti-philosophical philosophy. To put it another way—which seems a little less paradoxical—Kierkegaard offers a philosophy of a way of life that cannot, he argues, be rationalized.
Claire Carlisle, Kierkegaard: A Guide for the Perplexed
Like hushed antiquities ensconced in crates,
Excelsior, and mummy’s cotton gauze,
This roadside farmland holds no common cause
With time or place. A breeze investigates
The dialogue of rain and fog, yet yields
No evidence of crows nor their scarecrow,
But only emptiness in open fields
That proves a second harvest – stubbled straw.
So modern man, a target on the move,
Will enter such a landscape in his mind.
His feet will neither sound nor mark. The mist
Envelopes them, and rain is quick to drive
The point – the past erased or redefined,
Mere straw to scare the crowing nihilist.
The many selves of Krista – or, things to discuss with ourselves over drinks as we watch a sunset/sunrise on Guemes Island
I thought this an interesting read, worth some discussion, especially since Walker Percy haunts the margins of the piece but never quite makes an appearance:
The Romantic conception of self-knowledge as a quest for “authenticity,” to some extent a revolt against the rigidity of the Enlightenment model, is still very much with us, particularly in the argot of the New Age and self-help movements. More importantly, one must point to the rich tradition of Christian thought and praxis, which assumes that each person is the unique creation and image of a loving God, a duality of body and soul destined for immortality. There are many variants of the Christian discourse on the self, but none of them has ever posited a purely autonomous paradigm of selfhood. Indeed, one might suggest that the postmodern, decentered self is simply the all but inevitable outcome of a process of secularization that began in the 17th century. Robbed of its metaphysical foundation, the Enlightenment or, later, the Romantic self has grown increasingly attenuated and subject to disintegration.
Back a bit ago, Quin exchanged his transit authority for another sort of moving target.
After some digging around, I found that Zmirak’s original piece was followed up by another more recent.
Then, if you start following the links flourishing from Zmirak’s follow-up, that there are plenty of responses to the responses.
BONUS: We were mentioned as part of the conversation here (although the author misses the fact that Kiercegaard is spelled with two K’s…)
Marvel’s Kierkegaardians of the Galaxy: Lost in the Cosmos:
A great personal reflection on Mr. Bones from the late Mario Palmaro, Italian author and journalist and, yes, Triddywacker:
The first thing that shakes you up about sickness is that it hits us without any warning and at a time we do not decide. We are at the mercy of events, and we can do nothing but accept them. Grave illness obliges one to become aware that we are truly mortal; even if death is the most certain thing in the world, modern man tends to live as if he should never die.
… 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