The first, fitting words from the Danish philosopher we see are:
"The whole of existence frightens me, from the smallest fly to the mystery of the Incarnation."
These themes - Kierkegaard's fear and grief, contempt and anger, his view of things as they are and his hope of what they could be - are deeply enmeshed in these few excerpts from the philosopher's journals. Kierkegaard was, like most people, a person of contradictions - a man striving for faith and closeness to God, even as he finds himself frequenting bars and brothels.
Composed of 60 excerpts from Kierkegaard's journals, this book is divided into sections labelled Personal Reflections, The Leap of Faith, Works of Love, Training in Christianity, Attack on Christendom, and Prayers. Most of the excerpts are his thoughts on Christianity and Christ as human and divine, but there is plenty for non-Christians to think on. In his section on Works of Love, emotional, or passionate, love is compared with everlasting love. The first, says Kierkegaard, fools us into believing it is the stronger, for it burns bright; as time moves on, though, jealousy and habit can turn such passionate love into hate or contempt. In The Leap of Faith section, Kierkegaard speaks to every person who believes in God or things beyond rational experience.
Most of these selections seem negative, depressing in their view of people seeking comfort in their outward shows, content not to probe too far into truth, but a ribbon of hope and yearning laces through it all. In hopeful yearning, Kierkegaard reaches for God, wondering at the Infinite and the mercy it promises. For all these human failings, one is reminded that forgiveness is promised. For all the distance between people and God, Kierkegaard finds hope in Christ, God reaching out for humanity as humanity blindly gropes for God.
This is the first book I have read by Kierkegaard, and it read quickly, though the individual passages (each of which is a short paragraph) could each spawn individual books. This book will inspire your own meditations and prayers. I expecially recommend this book to Christians, though, as I said before, there is plenty for non-Christians to ponder.
Kierkegaard warns against those who cheat about life, "copying the answer out of a book, without having worked it out for themselves." If you copy from this book, cheater though you are, you will find new avenues to God and love.
Back to Reviews pageMary Pat Campbell, last updated June 2001