Two Upbuilding Discourses, 1844
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As translated in Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses, Søren Kierkegaard 1843-1844 (1990) by Howard V. Hong
- Even though a person was not without education insofar as he learned from what he suffered, it still would never be very pleasant if he needed to suffer much in order to learn little. Its desire is to give thanks if on the word of authority it were to win the tacit permission of the multitude to dare to go its way unnoticed in order to find what it seeks: that single individual whom I with joy and gratitude call my reader, who with the right hand accepts what is offered with the right hand.
- p. 179
To Preserve One's Soul in Patience
- You may have heard how someone who had thoughtlessly frittered away his life and never understood anything but wasted the power of his soul in vanities, how he lay on his sick bed and the frightfulness of disease encompassed him and the singularly fearful battle began, how he then for the first time in his life understood something, understood that it was death he struggled with, and how he then pulled himself together in a purpose that was powerful enough to move the world, how he attained marvelous collectedness for wrenching himself out of the sufferings in order to use the last moment to catch up on some of what he had neglected, to bring order to some of the chaos he had caused during a long life, to contrive something for those he would leave behind.
- p. 181
- Let us praise what is truly praiseworthy, the glory of human nature; let us give thanks that it was granted also to us to be human beings; ... does not even a mentally handicapped person frequently demonstrate how strong a human being is, and yet we do not praise the mentally handicapped, even though he puts many to shame.
- p. 182
- If a person with troubled imagination conjured up anxieties he was unable to surmount, while he still could not leave off staring at them, evoking them ever more alarmingly, pondering them ever more fearfully, then we shall not praise him, even though we praise the wonderful glory of human nature. But if he brought out the horror and detected the mortal danger, without any thought of providing people, by pointless talk, with subject matter for pointless pondering, but grasped that the danger had to do with himself-if, then, with this in mind, he won the strength of soul that horror gives, this would in truth be praiseworthy, would in truth be wondrously wonderful.
- p. 183
- Since life is uncertain, there is something one desires to preserve, desires to safeguard for oneself. ... It could not be something temporal, inasmuch as for life’s sake it probably would be desirable to preserve it, but how would one wish to preserve it for death’s sake, since it is precisely that which one abandons in death, which without envy and without preference would make everyone equal, equally poor, equally powerless, equally miserable, the one who possessed a world and the one who had nothing not love, the one who left behind a claim upon a world and the one who was in debt for a world, the one whom thousands obeyed and the one whom no one knew except death, the one whose loveliness was the object of people’s admiration and the poor wretch who sought only a grave in order to hide from people. It would have to be something eternal, then, that the discourse was about or, more accurately, what it could truly be about, and, in a single word, what else could that be but a person’s soul?
- p. 185
- Spiritually, deliberation is a difficult and rather unrewarding labor. One dares leave nothing out in the fog, leave no little secret lying there in concealment. Perhaps one discovers that the tower cannot be as high as desired. Perhaps one had never seriously made a beginning on it and therefore did not really find out that one was incapable of doing it; but then one nevertheless had kept this dream in one’s soul, this seductive fantasy with which one could at times entertain oneself-why destroy it, since it nether injures nor benefits? One discovers a little defect in one’s work-well, the building could last for all that, just as well as all the others, because, after all, one does not build for an eternity-so why make difficulties for oneself? Suppose one discovered no irregularity at all, then why all this deliberation.
- p. 188
- Does patience perhaps say with the cold calculation of the understanding that wishing is useless and that therefore one must stop wishing? Not at all; it does not speak about the fulfillment or nonfulfillment of the wish, for it says: Even if the wish were fulfilled, it would be to a person’s loss; he would lose the best, the holiest, to be what God has intended him to be, neither more nor less.
- p. 190
- To preserve one’s soul in patience—that is, to keep the soul bound together in patience so that it does not go outside this and thereby become lost when he must begin the long battle with an indefatigable enemy, time, and with a multifarious enemy, the world.
- p. 192
- What is hope? An importunate pest one cannot get rid of, a cunning deceiver who holds out even longer than integrity, a cantankerous friend who always retains his rights even when the emperor has lost his. What is recollection? A troublesome comforter, a cowardly knave who wounds thee from behind, a shadow one cannot get rid of, even if someone would buy it. What is bliss? A wish one gives away to whoever wants to have it! What is friendship? A figment of the imagination, a superfluity, an added plague!
- p. 195
- He who, believing, continues to aspire to the eternal never becomes satiated in such a way that he does not continue blessedly to hunger; he who hopefully looks to the future can never be petrified at some moment by the past, because he always turns his back to it; he who loves God and human beings still continually has enough to do, even when need is the greatest and despair is most imminent. Before he lies down to die, he asks once again: Do I love God just as much as before, and do I love the common concerns of human beings? If he dares to answer in the affirmative, then he does not die or he dies saved; if he dare not, then he certainly has enough to do. Then in love and for the sake of his love he must deliberate whether it is not possible to see, to glimpse, to presage the joy and comfort that still must hide in the sadness, since this must still truly serve him for good.
- p. 198-199
- Patience has another phrase, a powerful phrase, just what the anxious one needs: This very day, (Luke 12.20 Hebrews 4.7) says the Lord. Let us not rashly venture to fathom deeply the mystery here; let us not become too engrossed in this phrase; but let us not forget, either, that it is there. Let us regard it as an angel of deliverance who stands there with his flaming sword, and every time the soul is about to rush out to the outermost boundary of despair it must pass by him; he judges the soul but also strengthens it. The phrase is like a mighty warrior who stands at the post on the outermost boundary of the kingdom, always engaged in that terrible border dispute. When people of the interior of the country have an intimation of the terror and the women and children rush out-he stands there, he soberly turns them back and says: Take courage; I am standing here, I never doze off; go home again, prepare your souls in patience and quiet alertness.
- p. 200-201
Patience in Expectancy
- Only the earthly and temporal mind, to its own deprivation, makes duplicitous that which in patience wants to be understood as comforting and alleviating and as rescuing and guiding in earnest.
- p. 206
- Is Anna not patient in expectancy? Anyone who wants to harvest before he sows or as soon as he has sown, anyone who wants to be victorious without struggling, anyone who wants something but does not want the means is a fool in people’s eyes. Everyone believes that the expectant person needs some patience, and only the person who wants to cast away all patience, he alone is called impatient and childish in his impatience. Some patience! If a person were to go out into the world with this wisdom, he would find scarcely a single impatient person without some patience.
- p. 213
- “Forget the past once again, quit all this calculating in which you trap yourself, do not stop the prompting of your heart, do not extinguish the spirit in useless quarreling about who waited the longest and suffered the most-once again cast all your sorrow upon the Lord and throw yourself upon his love. Up out of this sea, expectancy rises reborn again and sees heaven open-reborn, no newborn, for this heavenly expectancy begins precisely when the earthly expectancy sinks down powerless and in despair.”
- p. 214
- The error of the one doubting and the one despairing does not lie in cognition, since cognition cannot decide with certainty anything about the next moment, but the error lies in the will, which suddenly no longer wills but on the contrary wants to make the indeterminate into a passionate decision.
- p. 215
- Whatever God gives, he “gives not the spirit of cowardliness but the spirit of power and self-control". (2 Timothy 1.7) Just as it is required of the expectant person, if his expectancy is noble and worthy of a human being, that he seeks this spirit of power and self-control, and that, just as his expectancy is laudable, he must also be one who is properly expectant, so in turn will the object of expectancy, the more glorious and precious it is, form the expectant person in its own likeness, because a person resembles what he loves with his whole soul.
- p. 219
- Anyone who expects what truly pertains to him cannot thereby become indifferent to it, since then he no longer grasps that it truly pertains to him, and neither does he then expect that which truly pertains to him. He cannot become apathetic in habit, since at all times he is just as close to the fulfillment.
- p. 221
- Impatience is an evil spirit that can be expelled only by prayer and much fasting. … the hunger of impatience is not easy to satisfy-how, then, through fasting? The demands of impatience certainly use many words and long speeches, but in prayer it is very sparing with words.
- p. 223
- People often lament that life is so impoverished, existence so powerless in all its magnificence, that it seeks in vain to take the soul by surprise or to captivate it in wonder, since to wonder at nothing is the highest wisdom, and to expect nothing is the highest truth. The child is astonished at insignificant things. The adult has laid aside childish things; he has seen the wondrous, but it amazes him no more; there is nothing new under the sun, and nothing marvelous in life. If, however, a person knew how to make himself truly what he truly is-nothing-knew how to set the seal of patience on what he had understood-ah, then his life, whether he is the greatest or the lowliest, would even today be a joyful surprise and be filled with blessed wonder and would be that throughout all his days, because there is truly only one eternal object of wonder-that is God-and only one possible hindrance to wonder-and that is a person when he himself wants to be something.
- p. 225-226
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