a sickness unto death...

I'm reading "The Sickness Unto Death" by Søren Kierkegaard, in which he talks about the sickness which leads to death as being despair - and specifically despair at being yourself - that is, desiring to be someone else. There are two quotes I'd like to share:

"This then is the formula which describes the condition of the self when despair is completely eradicated: by relating itself to its own self and by willing to be itself the self is grounded transparently in the Power which posited it."

"for to will to be that self which one truly is, is indeed the opposite of despair"

Essentially what he is saying in the first quote, as I understand it, is that if a self (a person), is in relationship with itself - that is, if it is getting to know itself (because oddly enough, we have to do that) - and if it desires to be that self or person which it truly is - then that person is grounded in relationship to the power which created this three-fold relationship (the person to itself to the creator). Basically, to make it personal, if I make effort to get to know myself, and I desire to be the person who I really am, then I will be grounded in relationship to God (from the context of the rest of the chapter he is referring to God by saying "the Power" here), who created me to be in relationship with myself and with Him. That each piece of the relationship is dependent on the others and I cannot be stable on my own without the relation to self or the relation to God.

The second is just kind of a paring down of the same idea - that because the eradication of despair means that one is in relationship with oneself and with God, and desires to be that self that it actually is - then to not be in despair means to desire to be the person you actually are.

I just found this idea really compelling and interesting - that the journey to discover oneself and to be the person you were intended to be is a fundamental key in both a relationship with God and spiritual health. I see this practically in my own life, in that as I learn more and more about myself, as I dig deeper and peel off layers of cruft that have been piled on by myself and others, and I come to see more and more of who I am really, I find relationship with God changes drastically. I find that I start to connect with Him much more deeply because I can do so in the ways which He specifically intended for me to connect with Him, rather than the ways someone else decided are acceptable or valid. I find that I hear direction from Him more clearly and more often because I start to understand how to listen and again the particular ways in which I hear best.

I also have found practically in my own life that as I discover more and more who I am, my spiritual health improves, partly because of the change in relationship with God and partly because as I get to know who I am, I can actually say something about what that person was meant to do here - I am able to begin living my purpose.

He talks about the universality of despair - that is that very very nearly every person, to some extent or another, despairs at being themselves. They desire to be someone they are not, to be rid of themselves in one way or another. I certainly find that to be true - there are certainly things about myself that I would give away if I could. But I'm working to find out and accept who I am, and to leave behind those things that I thought were part of who I was, but were just layers of paint on top of the sculpture.

It reminds me of another quote from Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness." When only the essential is left. When we are exactly who we are, and no more.


  1. Excellent! This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, because I finally realized that I have to learn to be myself and be comfortable with who I am.
    For the past year I've been trying to be something other than who I am, and it's caused me a lot of unnecessary problems... so in the past month or so I've been really committed to using my talents and abilities that God gave me, and also developing a stronger relationship with God, and I'm finding a lot of freedom in that. It's really an amazing thing.

    I never before would have thought of how important it is for me to write, do some artwork and write music... but now that I want to just be who I am, I find that's what I do best - anything creative. So I'm just trying to stop worrying what other people think of who I am, because I don't want to be someone else anyway. I think that was a huge difficulty for me before - I almost felt like it was childish to keep being an artist and a writer. Music is always acceptable, but I felt like people would think I had unrealistic hopes of being published and selling art. But now I see that it's not the end result that matters. If the Lord wills, I will sell art and I will have a book published... but for now, I have to create these things regardless of what will happen, because it's a huge part of my life.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on that. It was great to read!

  2. Yeah, the important thing is to do what you feel you are meant to do. There's a kind of related post earlier on my blog about whether it is an artist's primary duty to make the art they feel they need to make, or to make something that is understandable to their audience... I won't go into it here, but it's kind of a similar theme, and has bearing on this discussion (in terms of whether it's important if you are published or sell art or whatever).

    The problem with much of modern society (at least in N. America, I didn't notice it as much in Europe, though it is still there), is that if you can't make a lot of money doing it, it's not worthwhile in the eyes of society. And let's face it, it's only the very very few who make a lot of money selling art or music or books of one sort or another. And there are even fewer who make a lot of money at it and actually create something interesting and new. Usually the big sellers are status-quo.

    Anyway, I think it's really important to find who you are and then do what you were made for. Good luck in the process!