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KSRK: Guilty?/Not Guilty? (February)

Quidam’s February entries continue to worry over and around the question of her (what’s-her-name’s) lack of religious postulates. He uses that phrase again in his February 7 Midnight entry, as well as again mentioning her loveliness in the same breath:

Now I will begin in another way, I will think of the situation as though I were merely an observer who had to make a report…. Here is the report. It is a young girl who, though otherwise gifted happily with womanly loveliness, lacks one thing: religious postulates.

What does he mean by “religious postulates”? This time he explicitly brings up the concept of “infinite resignation” that we had guessed at in our earlier discussion (cf Fear and Trembling) and couples it with “an absolute relationship to spirit” of which, he says, she shows not a trace. She is respectful towards the religious but from a purely aesthetic vantage point, such that God is seen as “a good-natured elderly uncle who for fair words does everything the child wants.” This lengthy passage — within an even lengthier entry — is pretty sharp-edged towards the poor girl. Apparently she had fallen at his feet and adjured him in God’s name not to break off the engagement. It gets under his religious skin, but he ultimately arrives at this conclusion regarding invoking God in such a context:

For if this wish is not fulfilled, God and I are not for this cause quits, but I must stand by my word, I must every instant hold fast to the declaration that this was and is my only wish, so seriously, so eternally my only wish that I ventured to give it religious expression. For if after some time has passed I come with a new wish and send out a message to God again, just as whimpering parents send out a message to the doctor for nothing at all — what then? Then I have made a fool of God, and at the same time have shown that I am a comic individual who, far from being a hypocrite, took it for granted that to pray to God was the same as to pat pappa on the chin and say, “Please, please.”

Ouch. But in the next paragraph he softens and by the end of the entry seems to have come around again to the view that he needs to try to undo the whole thing by deceiving her into viewing him as a scoundrel or by other strange deceptions such as praising an anonymously penned novel of which he suspects she may be the author. (Did I catch that right? In the February 13 Midnight entry?) So the entire month of February seems to be tied up in this tangle of concerns: How is it possible she has no religious postulates? By dragging her into this affair have I so skewed her potential entry into the religious that I must do everything in my power to undo what I’ve done so that she may have a chance at entering the religious sphere in her own way and at the proper time? Am I justified in concocting all sorts of deceits towards this end? But couldn’t I after all have nonetheless been a pretty good husband? Yes, but …. “But the misfortune is that I have a fundamental defect in my morbid reserve, and to be anything by halves is a bitter pill to me” (Feb 12, Morning). So goes the month of February for poor Quidam, with the “Leper’s Sililoquy” (on the 5th again) providing a sad allegory for his suffering situation. The leper has discovered an ointment that turns the leprosy inward, so it is no longer visible to others but others can still be infected by the leper’s very breath.

Comments

  1. Quin Finnegan says

    Yeah. In the February 2 entry there is the best explanation I’ve read yet for the phrase ‘teleological suspension of the ethical’:

    that in a later age Christ says to his disciples: I did not say these things to you from the beginning; that he has more to say to them, but as yet they cannot bear it

    which he explains as a TSotE principle of speaking the whole truth.

    And I like that stuff about the whale and the herring that begins the February 7th entry.

    But sometimes, even though the whale is not dead, it lies perfectly still. If at times I spout blood in the moment of passion, and it seems to me as if I have broken a blood vessel…

    Disturbing. He spews words the way a whale spews water, and since he’s been wounded (as a whale is harpooned), a little blood as well.

    My question is: how justified is this comparison? How has Quidam been wounded? By his beloved being upset at his rejection of her? Or perhaps even by his own spewing? And is the sea flaming at the end of the paragraph metaphorically on fire because of all the blood that has been spilled? Very weird analogy that he’s chosen here.

    Can the stillness of the whale be an analogy for his depression, or inclosing reserve? Or is it a condition that has developed since his engagement, or the break-up?

    Nice observation about ‘infinite resignation”. My favorite part:

    In other words, in seventy years, for since a thousand years for him is as one day, so seventy years is precisely one hour, forty-six minutes, and three seconds.

    To the second? Oy!

  2. Quin Finnegan says

    Regarding the ‘anonymously penned novel of which he suspects she may be the author,’ is there any indication in the Graff biography that this corresponds to something Kierkegaard himself believed about Regine? Either way, it’s a comical example of the cliche, ‘a classic case of projection’.

    And speaking of the comic, Quidam has quite a bit to say about it in February 20 Midnight entry, including these gems:

    The more one suffers, the more sense, I believe, one gains for the comic. Only by the most profound suffereing does one gain real competence in the comic, which with a word magically transforms the rational creature called man into a Fratze [caricature].

    There’s an interesting analogy of a policeman illustrating the point. And then he writes,

    Yet this sense of the comic has to be acquired so painfully that one cannot quite wish to have it. But the sense of the comic presses in on me particularly every time my suffering brings me in contact with other people.

    Like the passerby with the policeman, I assume. By other people, does he mean everyone? If so, he seems to be close to treating himself as the ‘exception’ that Auden wrote about. But it would also help explain his attachment to ‘inclosing reserve’. I think.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    And although neither what’s her name nor Regine wrote it, this certainly looks interesting.

  4. Quin Finnegan says

    More comedy:

    A few days ago there was a man who said of us that we were a proper young engaged couple. Obviously, we are taht indeed: she by virtue of her seventeen years and I by virtue of the arificial leg I use.

    Come again? Artificial leg? Well, it’s a metaphor for his condition, the nature of which he is concealing from her by means of his constant, unflagging deception:

    But I am also learning something else; I am learning the comic from the bottom up: a young fiance with an artificial leg! To me I am just another Captain Gribskopf.

    Evidently Gribskopf is a comic character in an 18th century novel.

  5. Jonathan Potter says

    Thanks Quin. Yeah. The explanation of the suspension of the ethical in terms of Christ’s withholding is pretty interesting. I don’t recall anything like that coming up in his discussion of it in F&T. It also puts me in mind of Christ’s explanation of divorce being allowed in the mosaic law — that it was permitted because they were too hard-hearted to be able to accept the hard truth.

    The novel you dug up on Amazon is mindboggling. I’m imagining Oprah picking it up. My mom’s reading club. Myself whilst on vacation. Where’d you hear about it?

    I agree the whale analogy stands out too. Maybe more powerfully than the leper tale.

    Also speaking of these biographical allegories that occur on the fifth of each month, with the connection to SK’s birthday being on the fifth of May, I noticed Regine’s birthday was January 23. There are diary entries all around it but none on the date itself, which I can’t imagine was unintentional. Now that I think about it, avoiding the date seems in keeping with Quidam’s studied indifference — where SK is imagining Regine reading Stages and … well, it gets absurd don’t it.

  6. Jonathan Potter says

    If Mr. Webb is out there maybe he can comment on the Graff biography. Did you ever finish it, Jonny? Does it say anything about Regina writing a novel or SK believing she had?

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