How to find yourself, and your work, with Kierkegaard


Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher from the 19th century, does not agree with many illusions the society places upon our vision. He wants us to wake up from our comfortable illusions and blind beliefs that we have placed in family, work, and society. Amongst his many disagreements was that our professions, and work that pays our bills is merely a distraction from reality. The existential issues of our life, its real purpose, and our place in this madness, is what he finds important. Everything else is taking us away from the dread.

However, he does agree that artists/creators have the social license to be obsessed with their work. It drives them up the wall, wondering about a performance, how to stage a play, or a speech, because it has multiple methods, and is different when played by a different person. Nonetheless, the ‘work routine’ is yet focused on being obsessed and makes the artists’ license no different, since it is yet a license to step away from facing reality. Along the same lines it is the run-of-the-mill workers that accept the ‘cultural routine’.

Ernest Becker interprets this routine preservation method by saying, ‘proletariat demands the obsession of work in order to keep from going crazy’. And Freud says we don’t focus on these intangible concepts of life, because we are too busy making a living, or finding means to fit ourselves in someone else’s structures, so that we can live a comfortable life, and fulfill our biological urge to have children.

Becker thinks of the leftist path, and Freud of copulation. But beyond Ernest Becker and Freud, Kirkegaard just urges you to experience and think. He wonders that if work keeps us sane in this crazy world, what could help us not be factory manufactured ‘sane sheep’? What type of work could keep us awake about the reality of life, and yet in love with our work? He answers it by saying –

“The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from those fantastic ‘ideas’ [the characterological lie about reality] and looks life in the face, realises that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost… And this is the simple truth-that to live is to feel oneself lost- he who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality.”

He wants us to understand that calling the world crazy, is of no use, we must understand and experience it. Understand that life is crazy. Understand that you are lost. You will begin to understand why planning in the best institutions goes wrong. You will begin to understand why Greece, and 2008 crash happened. The reason is that everyone is lost.

By which he extends a hand to argue for the ideas of the shipwrecked. It is only after recognising our lost sense of being, our flawed selves, and the societal lifeboats we use to save ourselves, can we rise above to recognise we are infant lost. In that state of mental shipwreck, the idea one commits to is the idea that reality has brought upon them. Reality is different for everyone, there is no ‘one universal reality’, and thus the beauty our personal commitments to our ideas will also come only after, we fall in love with our lost selves, and rinse our eyes to find a clear purpose sitting right before us.

2 thoughts on “How to find yourself, and your work, with Kierkegaard

    • Sorry for the late reply. if you are asking what is the real purpose of our life, that i have understood is subjective, mostly it involves finding perspective in our vision, and ironing out our emotional creases by indulging in work that soothes us, rather than blurs our space in that work. it may definitely be different for everyone


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