Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fear and Trembling

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Soren Kierkegaard in his work, Fear and Trembling, the Sickness Unto Death," speaks of the existential anxiety engendered by change.  In his more extensive work on Anxiety, he said:

“However, in regard to all this, one has to wait for the appearance of individuals who, despite outward gifts, do not choose the broad way but rather the pain, the distress, and the anxiety in which they religiously call to mind what meanwhile they lose, as it were, namely, what is too seductive to possess. Such a struggle is indubitably very exhausting, because there will come moments when they almost regret having begun it and recall with melancholy, at times possibly unto despair, the smiling life that would have opened before them had they pursued the immediate inclination of their talent. Nevertheless, in the extreme terror of distress, when it is as though all were lost because the way along which he would advance is impassible, and the smiling way of talent is cut off from him by his own act, the person who is aware will indubitably hear a voice saying: Well done, my son! Just keep on, for he who loses all, gains all.”

Those who move into and through this fear and anxiety gains all.  We have experienced crisis and fear forever.  The twentieth century seems to have carried more than its share.  The twenty first looks like it will have its own load.  Al Gore, in The Attack on Reason, says that this emphasis on crisis makes us more controllable.  Our division into class, race, religion or region is driven by this fear and trembling.  Keep us worried and we'll be easily guided. 
Mr. Gore says that education which encourages reason is the answer to this anxiety.  This is how we can move into and through the fear.

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