Tag Archives: irony

Soren Kierkegaard

Not having made a deep study of philosophy I’m hardly in a position to say Soren Kierkegaard, acknowledged as the father of existentialism and angst, is the greatest philosopher of all time, if such were possible of anyone, given the element of subjectiveness involved in making such an assertion, but he is certainly my “favourite” philosopher, though it goes without saying that a table of philosophers ranked from least to most popular would of course be peurile.

I acknowledge it takes a bit of little grey cell taxing, however and nevertheless I proffer the following quotes for your cogitation and meditation; just a few, taken, naturally, out of context and not of the kind to give a definitive insight into what he was really on about. To do that would require some years of study….

“I begin with the principle that all men are bores. Surely no one will prove himself so great a bore as to contradict me in this.”

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”

“Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see”

“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”

“The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

“A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.”

“If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.”

“Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.”

“How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it and why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought by a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn’t it a matter of choice? And if I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?”

“What if everything in the world were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?”

“One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.”

“There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.”

“Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?”

“I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth’s orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.”

“A strange thing happened to me in my dream. I was rapt into the Seventh Heaven. There sat all the gods assembled. As a special dispensation I was granted the favor to have one wish. “Do you wish for youth,” said Mercury, “or for beauty, or power, or a long life; or do you wish for the most beautiful woman, or any other of the many fine things we have in our treasure trove? Choose, but only one thing!” For a moment I was at a loss. Then I addressed the gods in this wise: “Most honorable contemporaries, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughs on my side.” Not one god made answer, but all began to laugh. From this I concluded that my wish had been granted and thought that the gods knew how to express themselves with good taste: for it would surely have been inappropriate to answer gravely: your wish has been granted.”

“Out of love for mankind, and out of despair at my embarrassing situation, seeing that I had accomplished nothing and was unable to make anything easier than it had already been made, and moved by a genuine interest in those who make everything easy, I conceived it as my task to create difficulties everywhere.”

“I would rather be a swineherd, understood by the swine, than a poet misunderstood by men.”

“It requires courage not to surrender oneself to the ingenious or compassionate counsels of despair that would induce a man to eliminate himself from the ranks of the living; but it does not follow from this that every huckster who is fattened and nourished in self-confidence has more courage than the man who yielded to despair.”

“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”

“In the end, therefore, money will be the one thing people will desire, which is moreover only representative, an abstraction. Nowadays a young man hardly envies anyone his gifts, his art, the love of a beautiful girl, or his fame; he only envies him his money. Give me money, he will say, and I am saved…He would die with nothing to reproach himself with, and under the impression that if only he had had the money he might really have lived and might even have achieved something great.”

“Do you not know that there comes a midnight hour when every one has to throw off his mask? Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked? Do you think you can slip away a little before midnight in order to avoid this? Or are you not terrified by it? I have seen men in real life who so long deceived others that at last their true nature could not reveal itself;… In every man there is something which to a certain degree prevents him from becoming perfectly transparent to himself; and this may be the case in so high a degree, he may be so inexplicably woven into relationships of life which extend far beyond himself that he almost cannot reveal himself. But he who cannot reveal himself cannot love, and he who cannot love is the most unhappy man of all.”

“It is modest of the nightingale not to require anyone to listen to it; but it is also proud of the nightingale not to care whether any one listens to it or not.”

“For the sadness in legitimate humour consists in the fact that honestly and without deceit it reflects in a purely human way upon what it is to be a child.”

“I stick my finger in existence — it smells of nothing. Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? What does this world mean? Who is it that has lured me into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls? How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I should like to make a remark to him. Is there no director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?”

“Just as a physician might say that there very likely is not one single living human being who is completely healthy, so anyone who really knows mankind might say that there is not one single living human being who does not despair a little, who does not secretly harbor an unrest, an inner strife, a disharmony, an anxiety about an unknown something or a something he does not even dare try to know, an anxiety about some possibility in existence or an anxiety about himself, so that, just as the physician speaks of going around with an illness in the body, he walks around with a sickness, carries around a sickness of the spirit that signals its presence at rare intervals in and through an anxiety he cannot explain.”

“A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. In the present age a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that his audience had rebelled, after which they would all go quietly home–having spent a very pleasant evening.”“Intelligence has got the upper hand to such an extent that it transforms the real task into an unreal trick and reality into a play.”

“The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you.”

“What ability there is in an individual may be measured by the yardstick of how far there is between his understanding and his will. What a person can understand he must also be able to force himself to will. Between understanding and willing is where excuses and evasions have their being.”

“In The Knights Aristophanes gave us a picture of the final state of corruption in which the vulgar rabble ends when–just as in Tibet they worship the Dalai Lama’s excrement–they contemplate their own scum in its representatives; and that, in a democracy, is a degree of corruption comparable to auctioning the crown in a monarchy.”

“Whatever the one generation may learn from the other, that which is genuinely human no generation learns from the foregoing…Thus no generation has learned from another to love, no generation begins at any other point than at the beginning, no generation has a shorter task assigned to it than had the previous generation.”


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A little Sunday thought…

One of my favourite quotes comes from My Speech to the Graduates by Woody Allen, first published in the New York Times in 1979:

“More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

There is almost nothing as funny as turning our neuroses and fears concerning the future, and in particular the end of the world as we know it, into an occasion to laugh. None of us has the power to stop the elite class who run the world and prescribe the common dialectic from designing wars and creating the situations which put countries at enmity with eachother for their entertainment and profit – at least it would appear not yet. And so our sense of hopelessness, fed by the popular media, crafted by the organisations which prosper by our paranoia, is only alleviated by an irrepressible faculty of finding the funny side to all things.

Some decades ago Tom Lehrer the satirist, accompanying himself on wickedly played piano, gave us his song We Will All Go Together When We Go, which gave those of us around at the time a little light relief from our terrors of a massive nuclear war which threatened to destroy the world following the Bay of Pigs incident.

I say thank God for the humorists and comics, without whom we might all have sunk into such a deep pit of despair that there might be no possibility of emerging.

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