by Andrea Elizabeth

While making Pysanky today I listened to this discussion on Kierkegaard, Part 1, from The Metaphysical Club of Brooklyn (Part 2, which I’ll listen to next time, is available here. H/T for the Internet Archive site to Joseph P.). It seems composed of a Priest, some professors, and some laypeople which include two women. The women are the ones with the Brooklyn accents. One makes the Nanny sound like Pygmalion’s realized dream. They provide color and an interesting feeling dynamic, but I wish they’d listened to the more biographical readings available for free on Librivox, listed in the iTunes store, so that they could have advanced the discussion instead of making them backtrack. I knew the Thermopylae reference from a History Channel documentary. And it was the Spartans, not just “those against the Persians”. This discussion was more dynamic and less abstract than the one by “experts” on the BBC site.

One point that they seemed a little stumped on was how one doesn’t have to be a Christian to be good, so why does Kierkegaard believe that to be onesself, or to be true to onesself, one would have to be a Christian? I guess it was answered that Christ is Truth, so one seeking Truth would end up facing Christ. I don’t think the west has a good answer for this with Total Depravity pervading their doctrines about human nature.

Another point that keeps being brought up is how Kierkegaard’s breaking the engagement with Regina haunted him the rest of his life. Some go so far as to say it is the sole reason for his angst which he so prolifically writes about. A while back I heard someone refer to his writings as the Regina Monologues, pardon the reference. I do not think this is fair. If one can hear the infamous events contributing to his discussions, it doesn’t have to discredit them. One commentor in the Brooklyn discussion said that all his writings were about guilt. Can we validate them by saying that society and the crowd’s reaction to his broken promise and supposed disrespect of his fiance is what impacted him. Back then engagements, much less marriage, were believed to be much more binding than they are now. Kierkegaard ponders the question of living a lie so to speak, or setting the person free so that they wont suffer, even though the break causes suffering. Regina is reported to have gotten over it and become happily married. Perhaps Kierkegaard was meant to be a monk. Was it society’s pressure that made him feel bound to her forever and thus a failure? I think he was very conflicted about it, yet was more committed to being true to himself than to her. But something in him was always true to her too. Out of love, guilt or duty, I don’t know.

The above motivations are worth searching out in general. If love, I doubt romantic delusion and dependence. If guilt, I doubt whether it is founded, again if it is delusional. If duty, I again doubt whether one is taking on too much responsibility as an excuse to keep from seeking God. I’m a skeptic I suppose. Still, I look forward to reading more from him as The Sickness Unto Death just came today.

To clarify, I’m not advocating divorce at all. I believe most of its motivations are delusional too. I’m calling into question the nature of relationships that lead to marriage instead. Maybe more people should be monastic. Also, to be monastic does not need to mean forsaking community in its forsaking of the world. Monastics learn to love with dispassion.

Back to men being beholden to weaker vessels. I believe the men in the Brooklyn discussion handled the women’s questions very well and with respect. However, I wonder if the discussion would have gone deeper without them. But if there is a gap between male and female understanding, I don’t think we can dismiss it as being a statement about male superiority. I believe we should look deeper into the expectations, stereotyping, and opportunities available to women that enhance the intellectual gap sometimes. The woman in the BBC discussion moved the conversation forward more than those, with one exception, in the Brooklyn discussion, and in both discussions, there was a man who put the breaks on it through harsh criticism. Men and women can slow things down in different ways. But having women present in the discussion does cause a certain tension, imo. You can hear tones of men putting up with it, and sometimes a wish to overcome it, which I find very nice.