Sunday, July 10, 2005

When disconsolation gives way to revelation.

This, from Kierkegaard's diary, in an entry dated 1839:
"When I am alone in my kayak like a Greenlander, on the world's immense ocean, as much above the waters as underneath and always in God's hands, then it does occur to me to harpoon a sea monster on some good occasion...but I don't have the skill to do so."

Why should it surprise you to find that you are not the sole possessor of these feelings of infinite solitude? That these same feelings were felt by a then unknown man, twenty-six years of age? That you, yourself, do not own melancholy, insecurity, self-doubt? We're all adrift alone on this same abyssal sea. The kayak: a lightweight canoe built for one. Sailless, and alone, we're left to propel ourselves across this great ocean.

When dedication gives way to degradation - part one

There's this sea monster, this fantastic beast just below the surface of the water. Each day, a couple times a day, you see the flash of a great eye. You catch a glimpse of a mammoth fin, glimmering scales the size of dinner plates. It churns the waters beneath you, agitating the smooth sailing of your kayak. A harpoon is fixed to the top of the boat, but you've never been taught how to use it. You're certain that you could not muster up the strength needed to pierce the monster's thick skin, and you're sure your aim could not be true without adequate training. You fear angering the beast. You're dedicated to the idea of harpooning a sea monster, but lack the confidence to give it a try, so this unrealised fantasy quickly turns to obsession - and it won't be long now before you're driven mad by your own desire.

When dedication gives way to degradation - part two

You're chasing an ideal, looking for some paradigmatic concept. Something to call your own. Something to bring you success. You ask yourself: How does he write like this? Where do the ideas come from? You arduously comb through his words, and in the process, adopt, as your own, his style and ideas. "There," you say, "I'm really onto something." You remind yourself of what Picasso said - all art is theft - and you find comfort in these four words. You're simply inspired, that is all. All the while, though, there's a nagging worry in the far recesses of your mind: What if my own idea is still out there somewhere else? What if fortune awaits on a distant shore?

It bothers you to think this way. You're dedicated to achieving success, but you have no clue where to look for this epiphanic thought. Which direction? The sun is the brightest thing in view, so you align your boat with it. One day, while scanning the thin line of the ever distant horizon, something churns the waters beneath you. Frightened, you grip the sides of your kayak, and struggle to maintain your line of sight for fear of losing your way, and you choose not to peer over the sides of your little boat for fear of losing your balance. Each day, a couple times a day, the waters churn and your smooth sailing is agitated.

Weakened by hunger and improper nourishment, you soon lack the strength to carry on paddling - you are slowly dying. In the final moments of your life, as you sink lower and lower towards the bottom of the boat, your head flops to one side, and you come eye to eye with an enormous creature. A salty breeze fills your nostrils, and a fear pierces your heart. And just like that, blinking once, the beast slips out of view towards the dark bottom of the sea - towards a darkness blacker than the black of your failing vision, your failing life.


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