For nonfiction books, I’ll be going over specific topics, starting with my beloved Soren Kierkegaard collection. These are just some first impressions of his writing, without any in-depth analysis or philosophical/theological context. Later down the road I’d like to give a better overview, but since I appreciate his writing so much already, I couldn’t resist talking about him. 😉
Well, it’s finally come – the end of a long, much needed, and memorable weekend.
Today my family and I went for a walk at a local bird reserve. We’ve been going here for over a decade; it’s like visiting an old friend now. Autumn is the best time to see it, though already a lot of the maples have lost their leaves.
After a short detour through the woods, the trail opens up to the tidal flats, home to plenty of sea gulls, mallards, and Canadian geese. I’ve always thought this looks like something out of Middle Earth.
Though a cold day, it was a great way to unwind and mentally “reset” before the coming week.
Speaking of which, work has been pretty exhausting, and I’m trying very hard to stay positive. Rapid changes and new responsibilities are the challenges right now. I hope things will get easier by January.
To offset the stress, I’ve been alternating between several books:
- The Concept of Anxiety – Kierkegaard, aforementioned
- Open Letters – Václav Havel
- Manalive – G. K. Chesterton. (So far disappointing, to be honest.)
If you’ve never read Havel, I suggest dropping everything (as soon as is convenient) and reading “The Power of the Powerless” which you can find online. Though a political piece, it can be read apolitically as well. It is a call to “live within the truth” – as profound as it is simple, and as terrifying as it is essential. I have started reading some of his other work in Open Letters and finding it just as excellent, so far.
Kierkegaard I shall soon finish; only about 26 pages to go. It is tough to read, because in The Concept of Anxiety he is replying to a myriad of other philosophers (e.g. Hegel) and I am lost most of the time. It seems like a book I’ll want to reread in the future.
I have found one quote I like very much. It’s reminiscent of Myshkin’s “even in prison” quote from The Idiot, although a little less fanciful:
But life is rich enough if one only knows how to see. There is no need to travel to Paris and London – and it does not help if one cannot see.
It’s something I believe in wholeheartedly.
Something not immediately evident from this blog is that I’m a recent “fan” (for lack of a more precise word) of Soren Kierkegaard‘s writings. His book Works of Love changed my life in 2016, but being so profound in topic, it was not a book I felt comfortable writing a review on. I did review Fear and Trembling, though once again, not delving too deeply as I felt myself inadequate of completely analyzing it.
I approach philosophy as outsider, not from the “ground up,” so many cross-references are a bit lost on me. However, there’s something addictive about Kierkegaard in particular that makes the struggle worthwhile. It’s like listening to the ramblings of a friend who would be incredibly obnoxious if he weren’t so incredibly brilliant, even obviously to outsiders like me.
The Concept of Anxiety has sat on my bookshelf for a while. Right now I’m going through a great deal of anxiety (though not the worst I’ve ever experienced, by any means), and it just seemed like the time to read it.
I can tell you right now I will not be reviewing this book, because once again, it is a bit over my head. Actually, this is the toughest book of his I’ve read. I don’t know if it’s the translator or the material itself, but it makes Works of Love and Fear and Trembling seem simplistic by comparison.
Anyways, as far as I can discern, Kierkegaard’s theme here is multi-layered, but one motif that stands out to me is the idea that anxiety preceded original sin. Maybe “uncertainty” would be a better word for this context. Really what he’s suggesting is that Adam experienced “the anxious possibility of being able [to sin]” (p. 54) before he ever actually committed sin. This is equated to freedom or free will.
And that is the simplest takeaway I can offer from this book, thus far. (I’m over halfway.)
The other day, I rewatched Horatio Hornblower: Duty (2003), finishing out my campaign to introduce the series to my brother.
I’d remembered this as my least favorite episode of the eight-episode series, which follows the early career of a Royal Navy officer in the Napoleonic Wars. Rewatching it much later, I realized it’s not a weak film per se, simply misplaced as the final episode in the series (its being the final episode is clearly unplanned, if the screenplay is any indication).
The trouble with Duty is that it shows all the faults of a protagonist we’ve come to admire, with minimal distraction to offset the painful human interactions. Hornblower has never been particularly deft at “soft skills,” but here he’s rather abysmal for nearly the whole ninety minutes, whether he’s (mis)communicating with Maria, his loyal wife, or managing his unwanted political passengers.
On the other hand, if this had merely been the middle episode of a longer series, I think its focus on Hornblower’s faults would be seen as the middle of a character arc, as opposed to somewhat of a letdown. In fact, trying to forget it was the ending to the series, I could actually appreciate the human drama.
In other news – I’ll be picking up the extended editions of The Hobbit from the library today. Haven’t seen them yet, so looking forward to binge-watching them over the weekend (or maybe next weekend).
By NaNoWriMo standards, I’m quite a bit behind, but my goal is not to reach 50k this year, just to finish my novel.
The trouble I’m having now is that I just finished a major scene but had forgotten I had an outline for it (sigh). So I either need to rewrite/extend the scene or try to move on without those additional plot twists.
My gut feeling is to move on because I’m starting to get novel fatigue – I have been working on this for three years, so at this point it might be wise to get right to the ending and fill in details later.
|Statue of Kierkegaard, photo by Arne List
[GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
“. . . love your neighbour! As already shown, you can easily find him; him you can never lose. The beloved can treat you in such a way that he is lost to you, and you can lose a friend, but whatever a neighbour does to you, you can never lose him . . . it is not your neighbour who holds you fast—it is your love which holds your neighbour fast.”
This is from Soren Kierkegaard’s analysis of “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” in his Works of Love (transl. Howard and Edna Hong). I’d not fully realized the simple profoundness of this commandment before reading this book a couple of years ago. Though it’s a tough one to peruse, there’s many such great quotes in Works of Love.
For this recap, something a little different. I was mighty pleased with the little mountain of to-be-reads I climbed, so everyone’s a winner – and they all get awards! Thanks to Bev for hosting this challenge!
I think of Kierkegaard as this lonely person who is thinking through everything out loud, and some of it is confusion, and some of it is inspired, and he offers it all up to the reader without apology, because he is only human and never expected to think “perfect” thoughts, only to strive for truth. I don’t know if that’s Kierkegaard, or me projecting myself onto the impression of him. I think he was born to write this book, in any case.
Whatever the world takes away from you, thought it be most cherished, whatever happens to you in life, however you may have to suffer because of your striving, for the good, if you please, if men turn indifferent from you or as enemies against you…if even your best friend should deny you – if nevertheless in any of your strivings, in any of your actions, in any of your words you truly have consciously had love along: then take comfort, for love abides. (p. 279)