Existentialism is a term given to the works of certain philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche amongst others, who “focus on the condition of human existence, the nature of free will, and an individual’s emotions, actions, responsibilities, and thoughts, and the meaning or purpose of life.” (Wikipedia)
When I read today’s WP prompt, it got me thinking about my college days and all the philosophers we had to read. I must confess that Kierkegaard was one of many favorites because of the incisive way he cut through the morass of human behavior, and offered insights that many of us could claim to have experienced or that had made meaning in our lives.
Kierkegaard believed that “the individual has the sole responsibility for giving one’s own life meaning and with living life passionately and sincerely, in spite of many obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, choice, boredom, and death.” Life as we live it is individualized and subjective. We come to the conversation with our own back stories and our share of angst.
As per the quote above, when we look at it, it might seem odd until we think about it again and realize that much of life is understood in hindsight. We do live our lives forwards; we can’t live it any other way. Why? Because the world is in constant motion, each day comes and goes and we have no choice but to move forward with our lives or perish. With the forward movement of life, we create new experiences and new ways of examining our past. We understand events in retrospect… but we live life in the present. We can get stuck in the past, but whether we like it or not, our lives continue in the present. What Kierkegaard is really saying is that an examined life is one that learns from the past while living very much in the present which is in constant motion; moving forever forward. With that, I have selected a few of my favorite quotes from Kierkegaard to explore below. More Below.
For those of us who have a prayer life, it is easy to get caught up in our supplications, believing that if we just added one more platitude to the slew of songs and praise we offer, we might just get the Creator to give us what we want. Yet, many of the great spiritual teachers have said what Soren says above, our actions are for our own growth, our prayers, our goodwill, our generosity benefit us; therein lies the secret of giving freely… in giving, we reap the inner fruits as much or perhaps more than the beneficiaries of our grace. Our prayers change us from within…
“At the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference.” Soren Kierkegaard
Where there is no respect and/or love, there is no connection and no investment in understanding one another. When two strangers battle each other, they are faceless, nameless entities to each other. The indifference comes from a lack of knowledge of each other. When we get to know people, to invest in their well-being, we might still do battle but not with an attitude of indifference.
We use labels a lot in our global societies. It helps people identify objects, places, and each other. Labels can be useful and yet, some only serve to undermine us or make some of us irrelevant. Negative words that people toss around carelessly or even certain titles assigned to groups can negate them. I won’t give an example but we can all think of common ones we have heard. Labels put us in a box, often not of our choosing…
Often, we are exhorted to be real, be yourself, take the mask off, live up to your potential and to thyself be true. All well and good, but do we truly know ourselves with all our quirks and demons? We might have an idealistic view of who we truly are, but what are we like on good days and bad days? And how do others who know us see us? How do those who know but one side of our lives view us? We are works in progress and our views change as we do.
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” Soren Kierkegaard
I love this quote because it is a reminder that life is a journey not a destination. Each day, we have another opportunity to engage the world and learn from it. There are no permanent answers if we open our hearts and minds to the lessons that the universe can teach us. We are spirits having a human experience. This year, I made a decision to not second guess events in my life and to be open to change and learning. I have not been disappointed as everyday is a day at the school of life. What about you? What do you think? What are your thoughts? what is your philosophy of life? Are all things viewed through a philosophical lens? Do you have favorite philosophers you read? Do you live life backwards or forwards? Do share! Thank you.
This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: Do we live life forwards, but examine it backwards? Do you agree? If you do, isn’t this odd? It seems we’re likely to make many mistakes in basing our future, which is forward thinking, entirely on the past, which is looking backwards.
Positive Motivation Tip: Live your best life as you know how… Only you can decide.
- Understanding of our own past and responding to present challenges (yilmazalimoglu.com)
- Towel Dude – In Watercolor (bethparkerart.wordpress.com)
- Kierkegaard: an Evangelical born before his time (gentlewisdom.org.uk)
- More Kierkegaard; Abraham and Paradox (barnburners.wordpress.com)
- In Vino Veritas (The Banquet), by Søren Kierkegaard (thoughtsinfusion.wordpress.com)