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Reflections: Life As We Live It…

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard

Reflections: Life As We Live It... Søren Kierkegaard

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. 🙂

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”  Soren Kierkegaard

Reflections: Life As We Live It... Praying hands...

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

Reflections: Life As We Live It... The Stranger - by Albert Camus (book cover)

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.

“Once you label me, you negate me.”  Soren Kierkegaard
“Be that self which one truly is.” Soren Kierkegaard

Reflections: Life As We Live It... Labels can identify or negate us...

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

Reflections: Life As We Live It... Life divided into biological classifications/domains

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.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Soren Kierkegaard,  Praying Hands, Labels, Life/Biological Classifications, The Stranger cover by A. Camus,via Wikipedia.

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

23 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/10/2011 11:06 pm

    Good illustration about life.We can solve the problem of life together,:smile:

  2. 09/10/2011 11:36 pm

    TY Cocomino, Just trying to reflect on some quotes that hold meaning to many of us… TY for stopping by as I continue to catch up on comments. 🙂

  3. 10/10/2011 12:42 am

    sadly, it’s really my first time to read about Kierkegaard’s philosophy…We have studied about different famous philosophers but I couldn’t recall Kierkegaard (never was his name mentioned in our discussion way back college) geee…tnx for this post

  4. 10/10/2011 1:53 am

    I’ve written about KIERKEGAARD and IRONY:

  5. 10/10/2011 2:09 am

    I’ve featured YOUR reflections via “PRESS THIS” I hope, that will support your work!

    • 12/10/2011 3:33 am

      maybe one day we meet there searching for another vampire like me 🙂

  6. 10/10/2011 3:08 am

    and I added another version: Kierkegaard’s courage.

  7. 10/10/2011 4:17 am

    I like this post very, very, much! Thanks!

  8. Bree permalink
    10/10/2011 4:27 am

    I also love the work of Kierkegaard and read a lot in school too. Simone de beauvoir is of that school of thought toom
    I love the quotes you selected and will add more when they come to mind. Kudos!

  9. 10/10/2011 5:29 am

    Yes! “Not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” 🙂

  10. 10/10/2011 5:36 am

    I think that what we have experienced in the past helps us to move forward. I also don’t remember Kierkegaard in philosophy class! (yikes) Because of your blog and others, I am thinking more in terms of life being a journey and it’s helped me ease through many a tough situation,.

  11. 10/10/2011 5:52 am

    I remember discussing Kierkegaard and I love that quote. Simple yet wise

  12. 10/10/2011 5:59 am

    When we pray we should realize that God doesn’t necessarily give us what we want. He gives us what we need. And yet, I do believe that God does, at least some of the time, give us “the desires of our heart.”

  13. 10/10/2011 6:04 am

    In terms of living life backward or forward, I think we do both all the time. But as to “time” itself, being a dimension, do we have a choice? You write as though we can shape our futures by learning from the past. I believe we can learn from our past and shape who we perceive ourselves to be, but I don’t know that we have any more control over the future. Is it really nothing more than a dimension that has a predestined course which we do not know until it becomes the present? Or are there parallel universes in which different outcomes branching from every theoretical choice exist? This is a heavy subject from astrophysics of which I am obsessed but have very minimal layperson knowledge. Philosophy is fascinating when combined with science. And therein lies my curiosity. 🙂

  14. 10/10/2011 2:14 pm

    I’m not sure I live life forward or backwards. I tend to try to stay present.

    Another great post, Elizabeth. 🙂

  15. 10/10/2011 4:09 pm

    Once I realized that no one else could really understand me, I stopped worrying about my reputation with others and focused on my reputation with “the man in the mirror.”

    And that’s when I began to know who I am.

    That’s the key I think. When we stop worrying about who they are . . . or about who they think we are . . . we finally see who we are.

    And when we know WHO we are . . . we know HOW to live.

    Great quotes, E!

  16. 10/10/2011 7:45 pm

    I last read Kierkegaard in school – the only philosopher I had to read AND enjoyed reading; maybe because he was the only one with uplifting thoughts and a comparatively simple writing style? Thank you for the reminder, Eliz, I’ll have another look and see how I feel about his ideas thirty years later 🙂

  17. 11/10/2011 4:19 am

    Our past brought us to our today. The best we can do with our past is learn the lessons of our experiences and use that knowledge going forward.

    Too many people don’t learn the lessons of their past.

  18. 12/10/2011 4:07 am

    A good way to start my day was reading your blog. Thanks for the focus to live forward today.

    Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways. Stephen Vincent Benét

  19. 23/10/2011 8:40 am

    To quote Ernie Smith, a Jamaican singer/philosopher says, “Life is just for living.” That’s what I hold to now.
    My Spanish prof was a Nietzsche man and we’d spend hours discussing and writing papers on him for class. I realized when the semester ended that I felt sad and weighted down – a feeling I ascribed then to Nietzsche!


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