Søren Kierkegaard is considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher.
I wouldn’t have been able to define existentialism if I’d tried without Googling it, so for those like me, I’ll explain briefly.
Existentialism as a concept stresses the individual’s unique position as a self-determining agent, responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices.
Kierkegaard proposed that each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely.
He has been quoted as saying:
“What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”
Of course, that quote in its entirety is important, but for all intents and purposes, I’m taking this moment to focus on the following specifics from the aforementioned:
• “What I must do.”
• “What is truth for me?”
• “An idea for which I am willing to live and die.”
Kierkegaard believed in “going beyond faith” or going beyond oneself. He felt that God comes into each single individual and that’s where the place of God is. In other words, God’s not “out there” somewhere; he’s here, inside of us, an aspect of our personality, a component of our character. (Feel free to define “God” here for yourself, imaginably as some Universal energy or higher power that you believe in.)
So, if we go beyond ourselves or, as I see it, inside ourselves, and apply what we learn to the course of our future, then can we come to determine answers to the ideas or questions Kierkegaard poses?
That’s the hard part.
It’s easy to pose the questions, but can we go “beyond faith” to answer them?
“What I must do.”
For me, “What I must do” feels like the most daunting concept of all. Mostly because I’m not sure what my Dharma is—Dharma being the one thing I was meant to do.
Tasks are easy, to-do lists come quick, but that’s not what I mean. It’s bigger than that.
Some days, I think I am sure of myself. I feel certain of what I was meant to do. Though, when effort isn’t met with encouragement or approval, I start to question whether my thing is actually my thing.
“What is truth for me?”
The truth is, I want more. I want to know more, make more, create more. I want more space and time. I want more money. (There’s a little voice inside, however, that tells me not to admit that. “It’s not yogic, it’s not in line with, blah blah blah….”)
I stand strong in my integrity. I’m allowed to want more. I’m allowed to move through the world with feeling first. So the truth is, I’m not always sure of myself and I want to feel what “more” feels like.
“An idea for which I am willing to live and die.”
Oh, heavens. Here we go. This is in part where panic sets in. What if I have this idea that I feel is strongly worth living and dying for and I change my mind tomorrow? Or next month? How about if I just opt out on this one?
Naw. That’s not fair to me.
I’m willing to live and die by my integrity. I’m willing to continue to love and hold the space for those who love and hold space for me. I am willing to live. I am willing to die. I acknowledge that these ideas can be fluid.
I am the one responsible for giving meaning to (my) life, as well as living passionately and sincerely. Each God and Goddess is a part of me, as they are in everyone and everything around me. I trust that.
I go beyond faith every day to dive deeply inside myself and ask the tough questions. I recognize that things change. Tomorrow, I might have exactly enough of what I want. The next day, I might find a career path that sings a song of surrender and I move in a new direction.
Today, though, I’m doing exactly the thing I was meant to do—I am honoring all my truths and I am willing to live and die by that.
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Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland/Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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