Who is the most important person in the world? You, of course. But your life is like a child’s adventure through a giant forest with hundreds of different pathways. Every day you have to decide which one to take. If only you had a guide to help you, someone who could answer your doubts and fears. Sometimes you feel so alone.
One dashing young man strolling around Copenhagen nearly 200 years ago would have sympathised greatly with your existential dilemma. He would have sat you down and explained that he had the same feelings and had come to the conclusion that there were no logical answers. He would have told you to rejoice in the fact that you are a unique individual. Then he would have revealed his great passion.
Like many brilliant thinkers, Soren Kierkegaard was destined for a life in the church. His brooding father, a pious Lutheran, expected nothing less from his youngest son. But by the age of 21, Soren’s mother and five of his seven siblings were dead. His father believed it was divine punishment for his own sinful past. His son reacted by swapping his bible for nights of drinking with his university chums.
Then arrived the moment of great enlightenment. Having read, understood and refuted even the most challenging philosophical works he could lay his hands on, Kierkegaard realised the only way to be truly free in an absurd world was through passion. Not a breathless passion for your landlady or next-door neighbour, however. A very personal religious passion that is yours alone. Yes there is a divine being at the helm of the universe, but you won’t find him by crouching on your knees in church. You need a leap of faith, or, if you’ll forgive the quip, to let your karma run over your dogma.
Kierkegaard described his childhood as “insane” and found it difficult to form relationships with women (he did propose once but then spent a year in mental anguish about it). But despite his obvious emotional insecurities, he remained remarkably cheerful and his journals are laced with humour. He is one of the very few philosophers who writes like a novelist, with characters and scenarios to illustrate his ideas.
Kierkegaard’s abiding message, perhaps, is to “come down from the clouds”. The divine is not something we have to strive daily to reach or attain. It’s within ourselves; unlock it and you will set yourself free.