Party of the Uncertain

"If there were a party of those who aren't sure they're right, I'd belong to it." Albert Camus

“when life is the task…”

I recognize the humor of posting a criticism of haste when the United States Congress, through prolonged deliberation and incompetence, has shutdown the government.  Even though Congress’s tasks are urgent, the task which Johannes Climacus addresses, even though a passionate venture, is nevertheless a life-long task which is too easily deemed negligible alongside our numerous obligations.  And because it is so easily negligible, tending to the task, the task of living, is all the more difficult.

“To become subjective should be the highest task assigned to every human being, just as the highest reward, an eternal happiness, exists only for the subjective person or, more correctly, comes into existence for the one who becomes subjective.  Moreover, becoming subjective should give a person plenty to do as long as he lives; thus it should not happen to the zealous person but only to the busy trifler that he will be finished with life before life is finished with him.  And he should not be entitled to ignore life but should instead be obliged to understand that he very likely had not comprehended life’s task correctly, since it otherwise would follow as a matter of course that the task of life would last as long as life lasts, that is, the task of living….

…This is a very upbuilding observation that has an extraordinary capacity to stretch out the task, even to the point of going a long way.  Let us consider the oddity that with speed and haste, which are ordinarily praised and commended, there is one instance in which the praise is inversely related to the speed.  Generally, speed is lauded and in some instances is regarded as neutral, but in this instance it is even reprehensible.  When in a written examination young people are given four hours to write the paper, it makes no difference whether the individual finishes ahead of time or uses the whole time.  Here, then, the task is one thing and time something else.  But when time itself is the task, it is a defect to finish ahead of time.  Suppose a person is given the task of entertaining himself for one day and by noon is already finished with the entertainment–then his speed would indeed be of no merit.  So it is also when life is the task.  To be finished with life before life is finished with one is not to finish the task at all.”

– Johannes Climacus, Concluding Unscientific Postscripts to Philosophical Fragments, 163-4

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This entry was posted on October 2, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , .

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