“To be without care” from Søren Kierkegaard, the first Modernist

To be without care-indeed, it is a difficult walk, almost like walking on water, but if you are able to have faith, then it can be done. In connection with all danger, the main thing is to be able to get away from the thought of it. Now, you cannot get away from poverty, but you can get away from the thought of it by continually thinking about God: this is how the Christian walks his course. He turns his gaze upward and looks away from the danger; in his poverty, he is without the care of poverty. But the thoughts of the one who wants to be rich are continually on the earth; in his care he is on the earth, with his care is on the earth; he walks bowed down, continually looking ahead to see if he might be able to find riches. He is continually looking ahead-alas, ordinarily this is the best way to avoid temptation, but for him, yes, he does not know it, for him looking ahead is the very way to walk into the pitfall, the way to finding the temptation greater and greater and to sinking deeper and deeper into it. He is already in the power of the temptation, because the care is the temptation’s most ingenious servant. And the temptation is down on the earth, there where “all such things are what the pagans seek”; the temptation is down on the earth-the more it gets a person to look downward, the more certain is his downfall. What is the temptation that in itself is many temptations? Certainly it is not the glutton’s temptation to live in order to eat; no (what rebellion against the divine order!), it is to live in order to slave. The temptation is this, to lose oneself, to lose one’s soul, to cease to be a human being and live as a human being instead of being freer than the bird, and godforsaken to slave more wretchedly than the animal. Yes, to slave! Instead of working for the daily bread, which every human being is commanded to do, to slave for it-and yet not be satisfied by it, because the care is to become rich. Instead of praying for the daily bread, to slave for it-because one became a slave of people and of one’s care and forgot that it is to God one must pray for it. Instead of being willing to be what one is, poor, but also loved by God, which one certainly is, never happy in oneself, never happy in God, to damn oneself and one’s life to this slaving in despondent grief day and night, in dark and brooding dejection, in spiritless busyness, with the heart burdened by worry about making a living smitten with avarice although in poverty!

Kierkegaard, S. (2009). Christian discourses: The crisis and a crisis in the life of an actress (H. V. Hong & E. H. Hong, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Søren Kierkegaard is not merely a Christian thinker; he is a thinker whose works touch and transform all humanity. It is erroneously believed that Friedrich Nietzsche is the first of the Moderns. But that is an error in hermeneutics. The first of the existential thinkers is Kierkegaard who makes our lives worth living. It is also to be noted that willy-nilly contemporary Biblical exegetes of whom I consider Walter Brueggemann to be one of the best, reworks Kierkegaard unconsciously in his Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now. 

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