Excerpts from Fear and Trembling, by Soren Kierkegaard

[7] Every speculative score-keeper who conscientiously marks up the momentous march of modern philosophy, every lecturer, crammer, student, everyone on the outskirts of philosophy or at its centre is unwilling to stop with doubting everything. They all go further.

[8] What those old Greeks, whom one must also credit with a little knowledge of philosophy, took to be the task of a whole lifetime, doubt not being a skill one acquires in days and weeks; what the old veteran warrior achieved after keeping the balance of doubt in the face of all inveiglements, fearlessly rejecting the certainties of sense and thought, incorruptibly defying selfish anxi- eties and the wheedling of sympathies - that is where nowadays everyone begins.

[9] For then faith was a task for a whole lifetime, not a skill thought to be acquired in either days or weeks. When the old campaigner approached the end, had fought the good fight, and kept his faith, his heart was still young enough not to have forgotten the fear and trembling that disciplined his youth and which, although the grown man mastered it, no man altogether outgrows - unless he somehow manages at the earliest possible opportunity to go further.

[14] Abraham said to himself: 'Lord in heaven I thank Thee; it is after all better that he believe I am a monster than that he lose faith in Thee.'

[14] When the child is to be weaned the mother blackens her breast, for it would be a shame were the breast to look pleasing when the child is not to have it. So the child believes that the breast has changed but the mother is the same, her look loving and tender as ever.

[16] He could not comprehend that it was a sin to have been willing to sacrifice to God the best he owned; that for which he would many a time have gladly laid down his own life; and if it was a sin, if he had not so loved Isaac, then he could not understand that it could be forgiven; for what sin was more terrible?

[18] If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair? If it were thus, if there were no sacred bond uniting mankind, if one generation rose up after another like the leaves of the forest, if one generation succeeded the other as the songs of birds in the woods, if the human race passed through the world as a ship through the sea or the wind through the desert, a thoughtless and fruitless whim, if an eternal oblivion always lurked hungrily for its prey and there were no power strong enough to wrest it from its clutches - how empty and devoid of comfort would life be!

[20] There was one who was great in his strength, and one who was great in his wisdom, and one who was great in hope, and one who was great in love; but greater than all was Abraham, great with that power whose strength is powerlessness, great in that wisdom whose secret is folly, great in that hope whose outward form is insanity, great in that love which is hatred of self.

[23] So all was lost, more terrible than if it had never been! So the Lord was only making sport of Abraham! Through a miracle he had made the preposterous come true, now he would see it again brought to nothing. Foolery indeed! But Abraham did not laugh at it, as Sarah had laughed when the promise had first been proclaimed. All was lost! Seventy years' faithful expectation, the brief joy at faith's fulfilment. Who is it then that snatches the staff from the old man, who is it that demands that the old man himself should break it? Who is it that makes a man's grey hairs forlorn, who is it that demands that he himself should make them so? Is there no compassion for this venerable greybeard, none for the innocent child? And yet Abraham was God's chosen, and it was the Lord who put him to this test. All was now surely lost! The glorious memory of the human race, the promise in 19 Seren Kierkegaard Abraham's seed, it was only a whim, a fleeting thought of the Lord's, which Abraham himself must now eradicate. That glorious treasure, as old as the faith in Abraham's heart, many many years older than Isaac, the fruit of Abraham's life, hallowed with prayers, ripened in struggle - the blessing on Abraham's lips, this fruit was now to be plucked out of season and have no meaning; for what meaning could there be in it if Isaac was to be sacrificed! That sad yet still blessed hour when Abraham should take leave of everything he held dear, when he should raise his venerable head one time more, when his countenance should be radiant as the Lord's, when he should concentrate his whole soul in a blessing with the power to give Isaac joy all his days - that moment was not to come! For, yes, Abraham would indeed take leave of Isaac, but it was he that was to remain; death would divide them, but Isaac was to be its victim. The old man was not to lay his hand upon Isaac in blessing, but weary of life was to lay it upon him in violence. And it was God who tried him. Yes. Woe, woe to the messenger who came before Abraham with such tidings! Who would have dared be the emissary of such sorrow? Yet it was God who tried Abraham. But Abraham had faith, and had faith for this life

[25] But Abraham had faith and did not doubt. He believed the ridiculous. If Abraham had doubted - then he would have done something else, something great and glOriOUS; for how could Abraham have done other than what is great and glorious? He would have marched out to the mountain in Moriah, chopped the firewood, set light to the fire, drawn the knife - he would have cried out to God: 'Do not scorn this sacrifice, it is not the best I possess, that I well know; for what is an old man com- pared with the child of promise, but it is the best I can give. Let Isaac never come to know, that he may comfort himself in his young years.' He would have thrust the knife into his own breast. He would have been admired in the world and his name never forgotten; but it is one thing to be admired, another to be a guiding star that saves the anguished.

[27] Had Abraham doubted as he stood on the mountain Had Abraham doubted as he stood on the mountain in Moriah, had he looked about in indecision, if before drawing the knife he had aCcidentally caught sight of the ram and God had allowed him to offer it in place ofIsaac - then he would have gone home, everything would have been as before, he would have had Sarah, he would have kept Isaac, and yet how changed! For his withdrawal would have been a flight, his deliverance an accident, his reward dishonour, his future perhaps damnation.drawing the knife he had aCcidentally caught sight of the - then he would have gone home, everything would have kept Isaac, and yet how changed! For his withdrawal reward dishonour, his future perhaps damnation.

[28] Venerable Father Abraham! Second father to the human race! You who first saw and bore witness to that tremendous passion that scorns the fearful struggle with the raging elements and the forces of creation in order to struggle with God instead, you who first knew that supreme passion, the sacred, pure, and humble expression of the divine madness which the pagans admired - forgive him who would speak in your praise if he did not do it correctly. He spoke humbly, seeing it is his heart's desire; he spoke briefly. as is fitting; but he will never forget that you needed a hundred years to get the son of your old age, against every expectation, that you had to draw the knife before keeping Isaac; he will never forget that in one hundred and thirty years you got no further than faith.

[30] It is otherwise in the world of spirit. Here there prevails an eternal divine order, here it does not rain on the just and the unjust alike, here the sun does not shine on both good and evil, here only one who works gets bread, and only one who knows anguish finds rest, only one who descends to the underworld saves the loved one, only one who draws the knife gets Isaac.

[33] Why doesn't some poet take up situations like these instead of the stuff and nonsense that fills comedies and novels?

[34] The ethical expression for what Abraham did is that he was willing to murder Isaac; the religious expression is that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac; but in this contradiction lies the very anguish that can indeed make one sleepless; and yet without that anguish Abraham is not the one he is.

[34] For my own part I don't lack the courage to think a thought whole. No thought has frightened me so far. 31 Seren Kierkegaard Should I ever come across one I hope I will at least have the honesty to say: 'This thought scares me, it stirs up something else in me so that I don't want to think it.'

[35] If one makes love into a fleeting mood, into a pleasurable agitation in a person, then one lays traps for the weak when talking of the achievements of love.

[37] I wouldn't attach any importance in itself to a difficulty which, by overcoming it, brings a shrewd fellow no further than the most ordinary and simple-minded person has already reached without the difficulty.'

* Anchored Note, page 37

I wouldn't attach any importance in itself to a difficulty which, by overcoming it, brings a shrewd fellow no further than the most ordinary and simple-minded person has already reached without the difficulty.'

This is a good general point

[37] It is said to be hard to understand Hegel, while understanding Abraham, why, that's a bagatelle. To go beyond Hegel, that is a miracle, but to go beyond Abraham is the simplest of all. I for my part have devoted considerable time to understand- ing the Hegelian philosophy, believe also that I have more or less understood it, am rash enough to believe that at those points where, despite the trouble taken, I cannot understand it, the reason is that Hegel himself hasn't been altogether clear. All this I do easily, naturally, without it causing me any mental strain. But when I have to think about Abraham I am virtually annihilated. I am all the time aware of that monstrous paradox that is the content of Abraham's life.

[39] I have seen horror face to face, I do not flee it in fear but know very well that, however bravely I face it, my courage is not that of faith and not at all to be compared with it. I cannot close my eyes and hurl myself trustingly into the absurd, for me it is impossible, but I do not praise myself on that account. I am convinced that God is love; this thought has for me a pristine lyrical validity. When it is present to me I am unspeakably happy, when it is absent I yearn for it more intensely than the lover for the beloved; but I do not have faith; this courage I lack. God's love is for me, both in a direct and inverse sense, incommensurable with the whole of reality. I am not coward enough to whimper and moan on that account, but neither am I underhand enough to deny that faith is something far higher. I can very well carry on living in my manner, I am happy and satisfied, but my happiness is not that of faith and compared with that is indeed unhappy. I do not burden God with my petty cares, details don't concern me, I gaze only upon my love and keep its virginal flame pure and clear; faith is convinced that God troubles himself about the smallest thing. In this life I am content to be wedded to the left hand, faith is humble enough to demand the right; and that it is indeed humility I don't, and shall never, deny.

* Anchored Note, page 40

The moment I mounted the horse I would have said to myself

This is his "immense resignation" and is *different* from faith. It's like a "what the fuck?" instead of trust.

[41] All along he had faith, he believed that God would not demand Isaac of him, while still he was willing to offer him if that was indeed what was demanded.

[42] But to be able to lose one's understanding and with it the whole of the finite world whose stockbroker it is, and then on the strength of the absurd get exactly the same finitude back again, that leaves me aghast.

[43] for he who loves God without faith reflects on himself, while the person who loves God reflects on God.

[45] he belongs altogether to the world

[48] He resigned everything infinitely, and then took everything back on the strength of the absurd.

[48] to transform the leap in life to a gait, to express the sublime in the pedestrian absolutely - that is something only the knight of faith can do - and it is the one and only marvel.

* Anchored Note, page 48

to transform the leap in life to a gait, to express the sublime in the pedestrian absolutely - that is something only the knight of faith can do - and it is the one and only marvel.


[52] He needs none of this erotic titillation of the nerves at the sight of the loved one, etc., nor does he need in a finite sense to be continually making his farewell, for his memory of her is an eternal one, and he knows very well that those lovers who are so eager to see one another one more time to say farewell are right to be eager, right to think it will be the last time; for as soon as may be they will have forgotten one another.

[54] In infinite resignation there is peace and repose; any- one who wants it, who has not debased himself by - what is still worse than being too proud - belittling himself, can discipline himself into making this move- ment, which in its pain reconciles one to existence. Infinite resignation is that shirt in the old fable. The thread is spun with tears, bleached by tears, the shirt sewn in tears, but then it also gives better protection than iron and steel.

[58] This movement is one that I make by myself, so what I win is myself in my eternal conscious- ness, in a blessed compliance with my love for the eternal being. Through faith I don't renounce anything, on the contrary in faith I receive everything

[65] The ethical as such is the universal, and as the universal it applies to everyone, which can be put from another point of view by saying that it applies at every moment. It rests immanently in itself, has nothing outside itself that is its telos [ end, purpose] but is itself the telos for everything outside, and when that is taken up into it, it has no further to go. Seen as an immediate, no more than sensate and psychic, being, the single individual is the particular that has its telos in the universal, and the individual's ethical task is always to express himself in this, to abrogate his particularity so as to become the universal. As soon as the single individual wants to assert himself in his particularity, in direct opposition to the universal, he sins, and only by recognizing this can he again reconcile himself with the universal. Whenever, having entered the universal, the single individual feels an urge to assert his particularity, he is in a state of temptation, from which he can extricate himself only by surrendering his particularity to the universal in repent- ance.

[67] a fool can always find a greater fool who admires him

[72] How could any point of contact ever be discovered between what Abraham did and the universal other than that Abraham overstepped it? It is not to save a nation, not to uphold the idea of the State, that Abraham did it, not to appease angry gods. If there was any question of the deity's being angry, it could only have been Abraham he was angry with, and Abraham's whole action stands in no relation to the universal, it is a purely private undertaking.

[72] Then why does Abraham do it? For God's sake, and what is exacdy the same, for his own. He does it for the sake of God because God demands this proof of his faith; he does it for his own sake in order to be able to produce the proof.

[74] The tragic hero, he needs tears and he claims them; yes, where was that envious eye so barren as not to weep with Agamemnon, but where was he whose soul was so confused as to presume to weep for Abraham?

Page 76

'The future will show I was right!' This cry is heard less frequently nowadays, for as our age to its detriment produces no heroes, so it has the advantage that it also produces few caricatures. Whenever nowadays we hear the words 'That's to be judged by the outcome' we know immediately with whom we have the honour of conversing. Those who speak. thus are a populous tribe which, to give them a common name, I shall call the 'lecturers'. They live in their thoughts, secure in life, they have a permanent position and sure prospects in a well-organized State; they are separated by centuries, even millennia, from the convulsions of existence; they have no fear that such things could happen again; what would the police and the newspapers say? Their lifework is to judge the great, to judge them according to the outcome. Such conduct in respect of greatness betrays a strange mixture of arrogance and pitifulness, arrogance because they feel called to pass judgement, pitifulness because they feel their lives unrelated in even the remotest manner to those of the great.

[76] Surely anyone with a speck of eremor ingenii [nobility of mind] cannot 73 SereJ1 Kierkegaard become so completely the cold and clammy mollusc as to lose sight altogether, in approaching the great, of the fact that ever since the Creation it has been accepted practice for the outcome to come last, and that if one is really to learn something from the great it is precisely the beginning one must attend to.

[77] If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.

[78] Even of a person born in humble circumstances I ask that he should not be so inhuman towards himself as to be unable to think of the king's castle except at a distance and by dreaming ofits grandeur indistinctly, wanting to exalt it and simul- taneously destroying its grandeur by exalting it in such a debasing way. I ask that he be human enough to approach and bear himself with confidence and dignity there too. He should not be so inhuman as shamelessly to want to violate every rule of respect by storming into the king's salon straight from the street - he loses more by doing that than the king; on the contrary he should find pleasure in observing every rule of decorum with a glad and confident enthusiasm, which is just what will make him frank and open-hearted. This is only an anal- ogy, for the difference here is only a very imperfect expression of the spiritual distance. I ask everyone not to think so inhumanly of himself as to dare not set foot in those palaces where not just the memory of the chosen lives on but the chosen themselves. He should not push himself shamelessly forward and thrust upon them his kinship with them, he should feel happy every time he bows before them, but be frank and confident and always something more than a cleaning woman; for unless he wants to be more than that he will never come in there.

[79] And what will help him are exactly the fear and distress in which the great are tried, for otherwise, at least if there is a drop of red blood in him, they will merely arouse his righteous envy. And whatever can only be great at a distance, whatever people want to exalt with empty and hollow phrases, that they themselves reduce to nothing.

[79] No doubt the angel was a ministering spirit, but he was not an obliging one who went round to all the other young girls in Israel and said: Fear and Trembling 'Do not despise Mary, something out of the ordinary is happening to her.' The angel came only to Mary, and no one could understand her. Yet what woman was done greater indignity than Mary, and isn't it true here too that those whom God blesses he damns in the same breath? This is the spirit's understanding of Mary, and she is not at all - as it offends me to say, though even more so that people have mindlessly and irresponsibly thought of her thus - she is not at all the fine lady sitting in her finery and playing with a divine child.

[80] Yet for saying notwithstanding, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord', she is great, and it seems to me that it should not be difficult to explain why she became the mother of God. She needs no worldly admiration, as little as Abra- ham needs our tears, for she was no heroine and he no hero, but both of them became greater than that, not by any means by being relieved of the distress, the agony, and the paradox, but because of these.

[94] The knight of faith knows it gives inspiration to surren- der oneself to the universal, that it takes courage to do so, but also that there is a certain security in it, just because it is for the universal; he knows it is glorious to be understood by every noble mind, and in such a way that even the beholder is thereby ennobled. This he knows and he feels as though bound, he could wish this was the task he had been set. Thus surely Abraham must have now and then wished that the task was to love Isaac in a way meet and fitting for a father, as all would understand and as would be remembered for all time; he must have wished his task was to sacrifice Isaac for the universal, so as to inspire fathers to illustrious deeds - and he must have been well nigh horrified by the thought that for him such wishes were merely tempta- tions and must be treated as such; for he knew it was a solitary path he trod, and that he was doing nothing for the universal but only being tested and tried himself.

[96] I will explain once more the difference in the collision as between the tragic hero and the knight of faith. The tragic hero assures himself that the ethical obligation [to his son, daughter, etc.] is totally present in him by virtue of the fact that he transforms it into a wish. Thus Agamemnon can say: this is my proof that 1 am not violating my paternal obligation, that my duty [to Iphigenia] is my only wish. Here, then, wish and duty match one another. Happy my lot in life ifmy wish coincides with my duty, and conversely; and most people's task in life is exactly to stay under their obligation. and by their enthusiasm to transform it into their wish. The tragic hero renounces what he wishes in order to accomplish his duty. For the knight of faith, wish and duty are also identical, but the knight of faith is required to give up both. So when renouncing in resignation what he wishes he finds no repose; for it is after all his duty [that he is giving up]. Ifhe stays under his obligation and keeps his wish he will not become the knight offaith; for the absolute duty requires precisely that he give up [the duty that is identical with the wish]. The tragic hero acquires a higher expreSSion of duty, but not an absolute duty.

[99] Here again, people unable to bear the martyrdom of unintelligibility jump off the path, and choose instead, conveniently enough, the world's admiration of their proficiency. The true knight of faith is a witness, never a teacher, and in this lies the deep humanity in him which is more worth than this foolish concern for others' weal and woe which is honoured under the name of sympathy, but which is really nothing but vanity.

[104] This is why the effect produced by a Greek tragedy bears a resemblance to the impression given by a marble statue that lacks the power of the eye. Greek tragedy is blind. Hence it takes a certain abstraction to appreciate it. A son murders his father, but not until later learns it is his father. A sister is about to sacrifice her brother, but at the decisive moment discovers that is who it is. Tragedy of this nature is less apt to interest our reflec- tive age. Modem drama has given up the idea of Fate, has in dramatic respects emancipated itself; it observes, it looks in upon itself, takes fate up into its dramatic consciousness. Concealment and disclosure then become the hero's free act. for which he is responsible.

[110] Lessing was not just one of the most erudite minds Germany has produced; he was not just unusually exact in his learning, so that one can safely rely on him and his autopsy without fear of being tricked by inaccurate and concocted quotations, half- understood phrases taken from unreliable compendia, or of being put off-balance by a foolish advertising of novelties that the ancients have stated far better; he had in addition a most unusual gift for explaining what he himself had understood. There he stopped. Now- adays one goes further and explains more than one has understood.

[128] Sarah, then, is a girl who has never been in love, who still nurtures a young girl's notion of bliss, her immense mortgage in life, her Vollmachtbrief zum GlUcke [authorization for happiness] - to love a man with all her heart. And yet she is the most unhappy of all, for she knows that the evil demon that loves her will kill the bridegroom on the wedding night. I have read of much sorrow, but I doubt if anywhere there is a sorrow as deep as that residing in the life of that girl. Nevertheless when the misfortune comes from outside there is a certain conso- lation. If life fails to bring a person what would make him happy, it is still a comfort that he could have received it. But the unfathomable sorrow which no time can disperse, no time heal, is to know that it would be no use even if life were to do everything! A Greek author conceals so infinitely much in his crude naivete when he says: 'pantos gar oudeis EYota epfugen i feuksetai mechri an kallos i kai ofthalmoi Bleposin' [' ... for certainly no one has yet altogether escaped love, and none shall so long as there is beauty and eyes to see'] (cf. Longi Pastoralia). Many a girl has been made unhappy in love, but she became unhappy; Sarah was so before she became it. It is hard enough that one should not find the one to whom one can devote oneself, but unspeakably hard to be unable to devote oneself.

[130] Certainly Tobias acted gallantly, resolutely, and chival- rously, but any man who lacks courage to do that is a milksop who knows neither what love is nor what it is to be a man, nor what is worth living for. He has not even grasped the little mystery that it is better to give than to receive, and has no inkling of what the great mystery is, namely that it is much harder to receive than to give, that is if one has had the courage to go without and did not prove a coward in the hour of need. No, Sarah is the heroine. Her I would like to draw close to as I have drawn close to no other girl, or been tempted to draw close in thought to anyone of whom I have read. For what love for God it takes to want to be healed when one has been crippled from the start for no fault of one's own, an unsuccessful specimen of humanity from the very beginning! What ethical maturity to take on the responsibility of allowing the loved one such an act of daring! What humility before another person! What faith in God that in the next instant she should not hate the man to whom she owed everything!

[131] even I cannot mention her name without exclaiming 'The poor girl!' Let a man take Sarah's place, let him know that if he is to love a girl an infernal spirit will come and murder her on the wedding night, then he would certainly be likely to choose the demonic, shut himself up in himself and say in his heart, as does the demonic nature, 'Thanks, I am no friend of ceremony and fuss, I don't at all insist on the pleasures of love, I can just as well be a Bluebeard who gets his pleasure seeing girls die on their wedding night.'

[131] One generally hears very little about the demonic, in spite of this territory's having a peculiarly valid claim to discovery in our time, and notwithstanding that once he knows how to establish a certain rapport with the demon an observer can, at least in some respect or other, use almost anyone as an example. In this respect Shakespeare is and will always remain a hero. That horrid demon, the most demonic figure Shakespeare ever portrayed, and did so incomparably, Gloucester (later Richard III), what made him a demon? Obviously that he could not endure the pity that had been piled on him from childhood. His monologue in the first act of King Richard III is worth more than all moral systems, none of which bears a hint of the terrors of existence and of their nature.

* Anchored Note, page 134

Faust is a doubter,

If he believed he wouldn't have taken the deal. But he doesn't (despite the pretty decent evidence of the devil appearing before him) and chooses a "life of the flesh" instead.

[140] So Abraham did not speak. He spoke neither to Sarah, to Eleazar, nor to Isaac. He passed over these three ethical authorities.

[143] The tragic hero knows nothing of the terrible responsi- bility of solitude. Moreover, he has the comfort of being able to weep and wail with Clytemnestra and Iphigenia - and sobbing and crying give relief, while groans that cannot be uttered are torture. Agamemnon can rally himself quickly to the certainty that he will act, and he therefore still has time to bring comfort and courage. This Abraham cannot do. When his heart is stirred, when his words would convey a blessed consolation for the whole world, he dare not console, for would not Sarah, would not Eleazar, would not Isaac say to him, 'Why do you want to do this, you can after all refrain'? And if in his distress he should want to unburden his feelings and embrace everything dear to him before taking the final step, then this might have the most frightful consequence that Sarah, that Eleazar, that Isaac would be offended in him and believe him a hypocrite. Talk he cannot, he speaks no human language. Though he himself under- stood all the tongues of the world, though the loved ones understood them too - he still could not talk - he speaks a divine tongue - he • speaks with tongues'.

[144] Abraham can refrain at any moment, he can repent the whole thing as a temptation. Then he can speak, then all will understand him - but then he is no longer Abraham.

[144] Abraham cannot speak. What would explain every- thing, that it is a trial - though note, one in which the ethical is the temptation - is something he cannot say (Le. in a way that can be understood). Anyone so placed is an emigrant from the sphere of the universal. And yet what comes next he is even less able to say. For, as was made sufficiently clear earlier, Abraham makes two movements. He makes the infinite movement of resig- nation and gives up his claim to Isaac, something no one can understand because it is a private undertaking. But then he further makes, and at every moment is making, the movement of faith. This is his comfort. For he says, 'Nevertheless it won't happen, or ifit does the Lord will give me a new Isaac on the strength of the absurd:

[145] So Abraham did not speak. Only one word of his has been preserved, his only reply to Isaac, which we can take to be sufficient evidence that he had not spoken previously. Isaac asks Abraham where the lamb is for the burnt offering. 'And Abraham said: My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.' This last word of Abraham's I shall consider here a little more closely. If it had not occurred the whole incident would lack something. If it had been a different word everything might dissolve in confusion.

[150] But as the task is given to Abraham, it is he who must act, so he must know at the decisive moment what he is about to do, and accordingly must know that Isaac is to be sacrificed. Ifhe doesn't definitely know that, he hasn't made the infinite movement of resignation, in which case his words are not indeed untrue, but then at the same time he is very far from being Abraham, he is less significant than a tragic hero, he is in fact an irresolute man who can resolve to do neither one thing nor the other, and who will therefore always come to talk in riddles.

[150] But none could under- stand Abraham. And yet think what he achieved! To remain true to his love. But he who loves God has no need of tears, needs no admiration, and forgets his suffering in love, indeed forgets so completely that after- 147 Seren Kierkegaard wards not the least hint of his pain would remain were God himself not to remember it; for God sees in secret and knows the distress and counts the tears and forgets nothing.

[152] Are we so convinced of having reached the heights that there is nothing left but piously to believe we still haven't come that far, so as at least to have something to fill the time with? Is it this kind of trick of self-deception the present generation needs. is it to a virtuosity in this it should be educated, or has it not already perfected itself suffidendy in the art of self- deception? Or is what it needs not rather an honest seriousness which fearlessly and incorruptibly calls atten- tion to the tasks, an honest seriousness that lovingly fences the tasks about, which does not frighten people into wanting to dash precipitately to the heights, but keeps the tasks young and beautiful and charming to behold, and inviting to all, yet hard too and an inspiration to noble minds, since noble natures are only inspired by difficulty?

[153] For surely no one has found life more perverted than the tailor in the fairy-tale who got to heaven in his lifetime and from there looked down on the world. So long as the generation only worries about its task, which is the highest it can attain to, it cannot grow weary. That task is always enough for a human lifetime. When children on holiday get through all their games by noon and then ask impatiently, 'Can't anyone think of a new gamer, does this show that they are more developed and advanced than children of the same or a previous generation who could make the games they already know last the whole day? Or does it not rather show that those children lack what I would call the good-natured seriousness that belongs to play?

[154] Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come that far, but none comes further. Whether there are also many who do not discover it in our own age I leave open. I can only refer to my own experience, that of one who makes no secret of the fact that he has far to go, yet without therefore wishing to deceive either himself or what is great by reducing this latter to a triviality, to a children's disease which one must hope to get over as soon as possible. But life has tasks enough, even for one who fails to come as far as faith, and when he loves these honestly life won't be a waste either, even if it can never compare with that of those who had a sense of the highest and grasped it. But anyone who comes to faith (whether he be greatly talented or simple-minded makes no difference) won't remain at a standstill there. Indeed he would be shocked if anyone said this to him. Just as the lover would be indignant if someone said he had come to a standstill in his love, for he would reply, 'I'm by no means standing still in my love, for I have my life in it.'