We are going to get to the title of today's blog but we are going there by way of Denmark. Yes, the return of the prickly Dane, Soren K., who has replaced Heraclitus in my affections, with little Immy Kant now running a more distant third.
Kierkegaard, Soren, did not live that long. While he did live he preached evangelism (the real thing, not revivalism with a thin veneer over the fund raising), decided on the difference between despair and depression and generally made the world a better, if weirder, place.
Below is an actual set of sentences from one of his books, concerning the self:
A human being is a spirit. But what is a spirit? Spirit is the self.
But what is self?
The self is a relationship that relates itself to itself or it is the relation that relates itself to itself in the relationship.
No, seriously, he wrote those lines. I have trouble reading those lines.
We are not met to consider the maniacal genius of the "Fork," as he was known by age ten. Instead, we want to consider the putative difference between depression and despair, in particular, in how this difference effects institutional lethargy. Or, better put, how the suffering of the spirit/self contributes to the death of the whole, if we take the whole as being any larger body in which we participate, however minimally.
DO NOT STOP READING. I WILL LAPSE INTO ENGLISH MOMENTARILY.
Let me ask it this way. Do you think you might have to leave the church to live a Christian life? That is, if you are a Christian at all, or aspire to be a Christian at some point.
If this thought has crossed your mind and, if your particular congregation is related at any point to some larger body of congregations, your depression/despair may be contributing to the coming death of the larger body. Institutional lethargy does not spring up by itself. It grows up from the grass roots.
So, what to do? Well, let's decide first if your spiritual life depresses your spirit or your spirit somehow is brought to despair by your relation to yourself.
Depression is common and should be taken seriously. Depression may result some times from misfiring neuro-transmitters. Studies, as you might imagine, are under way. Depression may be a contributor to your overall feeling of despair. Take it seriously.
Or, you may feel intense feelings of self doubt.
I think of General Fightin' Joe Hooker, commander of the overwhelmingly manned and equipped Federal Armies opposing Bobby Lee's forces during the American Civil War. Fightin' Joe got whipped over and over again. He was asked why, years later.
Reportedly, General Hooker replied, "I got whipped because at the most important times in the campaign, I lost confidence in Joe Hooker.'
Joe lost sight of what made him Joe. He was not called "Thinkin' Joe," or "Handsome Joe," or even "Good-Guy Joe." He was called "Fightin' Joe." At the most crucial times, Joe forgot to fight.
He lost sight of who he was due to intensified self-doubt.
This is no argument for artificial self-esteem. Some of us are quite rightly humble. We have a lot to be humble about.
Still, still, still…
The cure for depression is not yet found. The cure for despair is somewhere around the spiritual junction of freedom and necessity.
I would like to live free. Really, I would like to be without restrictions, under no commands, bereft of responsibility. I would like to live in complete freedom. I just cannot determine any social situation in which complete freedom is possible or even acceptable, even if I am relating only to myself.
The burden of necessity makes me more acceptable. I stop at red and yellow lights. I cover my mouth when coughing. I just know there has to be the leaven of freedom in necessity because it is not possible to live according to the bottom line always. There is a lot of empty space between the top of the page and the bottom line.
Let me put it a different way. All the living matters. There is a lot of living between the birth announcement and the epitaph.
Or, we might say it is more needful to be wary of an empty life than a full death.
We just have to know who we are. Some of our old organizations quit being who we are. They broke faith with the us that made them them. So, now we know what and who we are not but there are not many of us left who know who we are or even who we are supposed to be.
How do we regain a sense of self that lifts despair?
We have to find the right coupling of freedom and necessity.
Someone will have to pay a great price.
When you do not have a great platform from which to speak, you have to steel yourself to act alone, consistently, to be true to the call you received. The day He died, there were more people voting for Barabbas than for Jesus, the Christ. The beatings had already begun. Really, when is enough enough?
The end or our despair (not depression) starts to come when we regain our identity. We stop hating who we are because we are not something more or other. We accept the self as spirit and spirit as a part of eternity wherein we relate the self to the self, while never stepping out of the social context.
Know Who You Are.
Tomorrow: The Last Suggestion I Can Make