Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kierkegaard's Works of Love - Part II - Love Hopes All Things and Is Never Put to Shame

Kierkegaard acknowledges, and acknowledges that the Christian must acknowledge, that there are periods of aridity and not only aridity but of a state of poisonous stagnancy. Into this state a fresh breeze is called for. This breeze requires the help of the eternal. This poisonous stagnancy is not painted in idleness but characterized rather in busyness; in furious busyness. The picture SK gives is the whirlpool. It does not move forward but is caught up in striving, winning, and losing and winning again, now at one point, now at another.

In the midst of this the Christian stands as one who alone is a loser and loses everything. In this way the Christian understands that temporal life allows one plane of existence (either lose or whirpool) while eternity offers another (victory). For only eternity has the ability to confer victory (or honour).

At every moment with the help of the eternal Christianity procures vision in the relationship to honour and shame, you yourself will by hoping. . . . Christianty's hope is the eternal, and Christ is the way; his abasement is the way, but also when he ascended into heaven he was the way.
So what is it about hope, loving hope? SK offers a suggestive statement on how hope engages the eternal.
To hope is related to the future, to possibility, which again, distinguished from actuality, is always a duality, the possibilities of advancing and retrogressing, of rising up or of going under, of the good or of the evil. The eternal is, but when the eternal touches time or is in time, they do not meet each other in the present, for then the present would itself be the eternal. The present, the moment, is so quickly past, that it really is not present; it is only the boundary and is therefore transitional; whereas the past is what was present. Consequently if the eternal is in the temporal, it is in the future (for the present cannot get hold of it, and the past is indeed past) or in possibility.
The individual can relate himself to the eternal by orienting towards the future in expectation. Expectation carries the duality of possibility (rising or falling). To relate expectantly to the good is to hope. To relate expectantly to the evil is to fear.
Through the decision to choose hope, one thereby chooses infinitely more than is apparent, for it is an eternal decision. . . . This is the basis of the fact that one who hopes can never be deceived, for to hope is to expect the possibility of the good; but the possibility of the good is eternal.
If one is not engaged in the expectancy of the good one can expect,
variously concocted tough slime which men call a realistic view of life.
If I had more energy I would quote that whole page it is a vigorous and imaginative attack against a life which does not hope lovingly. But the one who hopes is a child student of the infinite. The infinite is so great that it does not overwhelm the child all at once with its totality but reveals in increments that the child might not despair but continue on. The eternal makes itself divisible yet remains one,
that clothing itself in the forms of the future, the possible, with aid of hope it educates the child of time (man). . . . In possibility the eternal is continually near enough to be at hand and yet far enough away to keep man advancing towards the eternal, on the way, in forward movement. In this way the eternal lures and draws a person, in the possible, from cradle to grave, if he just chooses to hope.
Lure is important here as it keeps the individual in movement being 'just as near as distant'.
Love enters and turns this hope towards other individuals. And so hope keeps open the infinite possibility of the other's good. SK is clear that the opposite is always possible as well. That one can always fall into despair from whatever height they are. In a way they are same but still eternally separated 'for despair hopes nothing at all for others and love hopes all things.' Here as in earlier chapters SK steers sharply clear of identifiable results in the works of love. Even if nothing is added still the greatest gift is given which is hope.
Hope is never put to shame. Cleverness is put to shame because it tries to secure the outcome and predict a finality. And so if 'hope' is placed on the temporal realm then shame is a real possibility but this is not hope. Hope is related to the eternal and in the eternal it is not the result that determines honour and shame but expectation itself.
Therefore, in eternity it is precisely the unloving one, who perhaps was proved right in the he picayunishly, enviously, hatefully expected for the other person, who will be put to shame - although his expectation was fulfilled. But honour belongs to the lover. And in eternity there will be heard no wearisome gossip about nevertheless having been mistaken - maybe it was a mistake: unto salvation.

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