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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Texas George Rex Judas (2b)

The modern world and its many crises that I mentioned in the last post has attracted the attention of many thinkers, past and present. For Kierkegaard, with these crises should come the realization that I have a freedom to be different from what these my social, family and cultural environment are trying to make out of me. I can be something different from what I was born into and what my environment is telling me to do/be. From within the midst of these crises, I can begin to see what Kierkegaard calls the eternal--the possibility to become an individual who takes responsibility for his or her actions in an ethical way.

I will explain what Kierkegaard calls "distance" in the next section. For now, it might help to see that it is an inward relationship (Kierkegaard calls it "inwardness") to the world that I form in various attitudes and emotional and psychological motives towards the world. Contrary to the connotation of the word :inward", this is not a drawing away from the world, but rather a realization that how I think and believe determines how I act toward and in the world.

It is this distance from my environment that create a psychic space in which I can inhabit the values and morals that my society wants me to accept. Unlike others who might unquestioningly accept what their society says to do, say, or think, I can accept those things but consciously and with full understanding of why I do so. More importantly, because I have critically understood what the values mean, I can understand how best to accomplish them in a real, honest, and authentic way.

Important to becoming a real person is knowing what historical forces have shaped me into what or who I am. Those things that are never apparent but must be questioned to be understood. If I do not question them, then I am at their mercy and potentially can act in ways that are irresponsible since I never had the courage to look their truth in the eye. While we can never attain total self-transparency--which is the origin of what psychologists, philosophers and religionists call guilt--I must attempt to understand these forces at work from the world and via unconscious and semi-conscious drives.

My history, therefore, includes not just natural and socio-cultural events, but also those acts that I enact. If I choose to run away from the truth of my history--whether personal or socio-cultural--then I run the risk of becoming demonic, in Kierkegaard's way of looking at things. The demonic hates the truth,as much as it hates what is good. And truth for individuals involves being conscious of those things that influence us in our actions and make us culpable or not--not just in the eyes of the courts but in the eyes of our own consciences.

While one might not believe in an afterlife, you could believe that you must do and say what is right simply because it is the right thing to do. But also because you must be aware that you are not only responsible for what you do in a selfish way but that your my actions affect and impact others now and in the future. If I act irresponsibly, without consideration of how my acts will affect others, I will act unethically. But acting ethically entails understanding that my actions and how I do them have repercussions far beyond their immediate effect for me, my family, or even my nation.

For Kierkegaard, not only is the eternal involved with the idea of possibility, it is also about the future. In a religious sense, this implies an after-life. But religiously or not, the future is where I project where I will or can change based on an assessment of my past behavior. The future is always open as an ethical span within which I can act in a way that engenders more and more sincerity and honesty with myself and towards others. The future is where I will enact what conscience demands in terms of living a life geared to doing what is right.

For Kierkegaard, then, we must live in the present because it affects how I will act in the future. A person without any possibility or notion of the future, as possibility, will be acting not only unethically but also sinfully. We must inhabit time in all dimensions in order to attain that for which I exist. Shirking one dimension, or remaining unconscious of the ethical and spiritual demands of a being who finds meaning in time, is demonic.

Pres. Bush's statement about death and his apparent concern with either a final reckoning in an after-life or, at a minimum, of how his present actions will affect the future of others mirror in a very real way the descriptions of the demonic as Kierkegaard lays them out.

It is from this final perspective that Kierkegaard's understanding of original sin begins to come into play for understanding Pres. Bush's demonic personality.

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