Sunday, July 14, 2013

About Sorrow

Let others be proud that no girl anywhere can resist their erotic power; we envy them not. We shall be proud that no secret sorrow escapes our attention, that no solitary sorrow is so prudish and so proud that we do not succeed in penetrating its innermost hideout! Which contest is the most dangerous, which requires the most skill and provides the greatest pleas­ure, we shall not investigate. Our choice is made: we love only sorrow. We are in quest only of sorrow, and wherever we find its trail we follow it, fearlessly, unwaveringly, until it dis­closes itself. For this fight we equip ourselves; we practice fighting daily.
It is true that sorrow sneaks about in the world so very se­cretively that only the person who has sympathy for it gains an intimation of it. One walks down the street; one house looks like the other. Only the experienced observer suspects that in this particular house things are quite otherwise at the midnight hour; then an unhappy person paces about, one who found no rest; he goes up the stairs, and his footsteps echo in the stillness of the night. People pass one another in the street; one person looks just like the next, and the next one is like al­most everyone else. Only the experienced observer suspects that deep within that one's head resides a lodger who has nothing to do with the world but lives out his solitary life in quiet home-industry work.
The exterior, then, is indeed the object of our scrutiny but not of our interest. In the same way, the fisherman sits and looks fixedly at the float; the float, however, does not interest him at all, but rather the movements down at the bottom. Therefore the exterior does indeed have significance for us, but not as a manifestation of the interior, but rather as a tele­graphic report that there is something hidden deep within.
When one looks long and attentively at a face, sometimes another face, as it were, is discovered within the face one sees. Ordinarily this is an unmistakable sign that the soul is hiding an emigrant who has withdrawn from the exterior face in order to watch over a buried treasure, and the route for the operation of observation is suggested by the fact that the one face seems to be within the other, which indicates that one must try to penetrate inward if one wants to discover anything.

Kierkegaard, “Silhouttes”, in Either/Or, Part I, Princeton University Press, 
1987, translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong

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