Himself at last.

I would like to read more of Søren Kierkegaard’s writings. My intent is on display in the form of four titles by him that I have had sitting on the mobile bookshelf here in my kitchen/family room, for a year at least. I guess if I could decide which to read that would be a good start. A biography of him I am not likely to get to, but who knows…? In the meantime, I am reading this homage by Dana Gioia in the form of a poem. Seems like after this I owe it to Kierkegaard to read at least one more of his own works, though not in hopes of explaining any “riddles.” Only God can do that, and we know that He will — all of them, all of us.

HOMAGE TO SOREN KIERKEGAARD

Work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling.
—St. Paul

I was already an old man when I was born.
Small with a curved back, he dragged his leg when walking
the streets of Copenhagen. “Little Kierkegaard,”
they called him. Some meant it kindly. The more one suffers
the more one acquires a sense of the comic.
His hair rose in waves six inches above his head.
Save me, O God, from ever becoming sure.
What good is faith if it is not irrational?

Christianity requires a conviction of sin.
As a boy tending sheep on the frozen heath,
his starving father cursed God for his cruelty.
His fortunes changed. He grew rich and married well.
His father knew these blessings were God’s punishment.
All would be stripped away. His beautiful wife died,
then five of his children. Crippled Soren survived.
The self-consuming sickness unto death is despair.

What the age needs is not a genius but a martyr.
Soren fell in love, proposed, then broke the engagement.
No one, he thought, could bear his presence daily.
My sorrow is my castle. His books were read
but ridiculed. Cartoons mocked his deformities.
His private journals fill seven thousand pages.
You could read them all, he claimed, and still not know him.
He who explains this riddle explains my life.

When everyone is Christian, Christianity
does not exist. The crowd is untruth. Remember
we stand alone before God in fear and trembling.
At forty-two he collapsed on his daily walk.
Dying he seemed radiant. His skin had become
almost transparent. He refused communion
from the established church. His grave has no headstone.
Now with God’s help I shall at last become myself.

-Dana Gioia, 99 Poems

5 thoughts on “Himself at last.

  1. I don’t know about the poet’s statement that if everyone is Christian, Christianity no longer exists. Does he mean there can only be Christianity if there is someone to oppose or convert? Or does she mean that we will have arrived at that hoped-for day when, per the New Testament (don’t know where), the teaching will cease because it will be written on everyone’s heart? I certainly hope it’s the latter. Cathy

    Like

    1. I believe that the lines in italics are taken from Kierkegaard’s own writings. His thought developed in the context of a state church, which he thought was a bad idea. Wikipedia:

      ‘According to Kierkegaard, the idea of congregations keeps individuals as children since Christians are disinclined from taking the initiative to take responsibility for their own relation to God. He stressed that “Christianity is the individual, here, the single individual”. Furthermore, since the Church was controlled by the State, Kierkegaard believed the State’s bureaucratic mission was to increase membership and oversee the welfare of its members. More members would mean more power for the clergymen: a corrupt ideal. This mission would seem at odds with Christianity’s true doctrine, which, to Kierkegaard, is to stress the importance of the individual, not the whole. Thus, the state-church political structure is offensive and detrimental to individuals, since anyone can become “Christian” without knowing what it means to be Christian. It is also detrimental to the religion itself since it reduces Christianity to a mere fashionable tradition adhered to by unbelieving “believers”, a “herd mentality” of the population, so to speak.’

      Dana Gioia is Roman Catholic; you can find many of his other poems here on my site. This one is appropriate for the Lenten season: https://gretchenjoanna.com/2014/03/06/the-satisfaction-of-pride/

      Like

  2. I want to read this book again, too. My understanding of many things has changed over the past year and I agree with Kierkegaard about Christianity as represented by the “evolving“ church. It has evolved us to a mere social justice by trying to put everyone on the same playing field (except the ones who administer it). It is NOT our God’s justice at all. Currently reading a book called WHY SOCIAL JUSTICE IS NOT BIBLICAL JUSTICE by Scott David Allen. It helped me to see why I cannot consider myself part of the Social Justice group currently running our cultural “church”. We’ve given in to a new definition of justice. Anyway it appears to be a good read, though I had to order the book, as I wanted a hard copy! Love books…words…..

    Leslie

    Like

Leave a Reply to Anne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.