Soren Kierkegaard's 200th Birthday: Being Beaten Up by Life and Everything Else before You Understand What's Happening

May 5th was the 200th of Kierkegaard. This is perhaps significant to a few people.

I mention it because I noticed the acknowledgement in one trendy, smarty-farty online news mag,and also because, of my four degrees, the first, in philosophy, was and remains the most important, because it taught me more than any other. But, I didn't even begin to understand existentialism until 10 years after I had finished that degree, but continued to read philosophy through the sheer love of it.

I found that Kierkegaard's philosophy, whether you think it's the foundation of existentialism or not (I happen to agree that it is), it's not something you "get" by studying. Classroom work helps, to be sure, but it really is more like Zen. I spent ten years studying Zen, and this sort of thing is relevant. I can tell you stories of my experience with this, but not now. The point is, both Zen and existentialism will both hit you smack between the eyes, when you least expect it.

Kierkegaard was probably more obscure than most other philosophers. Schopenhauer is loose but clear, and warm and fuzzy; I like him very much. Kant is so inconsistent, at least in the Critique of Pure Reason, that I'm pretty sure,after years of trying to understand what I used to think was something very important that Kant had discovered, that he probably never really understood what he was trying to say. I still like him like him a lot, but he really was confused. Spinoza is the clearest, and to me, the most important philosopher who has lived in any culture, because he has embodied the ideal of philosophy since at least from Aquinas to Leibnitz and Newton (actually, more Leibnitz than Newton). This ideal was to explain the world through pure reason. I think Spinoza did this.

So what's the point of this dreary and tedious essay? About one motive of philosophy, which is I imagine the primary motive of "philosophy" when people think of that term. That motive is to understand, not the mysterious inner workings of the Universe writ large, or to analyze how we think, and whether how we think is appropriate to comprehend how the Universe works.

The motive of philosophy that I have in mind here, and in fact have kept in mind because it's become rather urgent for me, is more along the lines of what we might expect from such an otherwise useless endeavor: It's the, some, any, answer to the question, "What the fuck is happening here?"

So I got to thinking about this, in my own life (which is uninteresting to everyone, including me), and also in boxing.

Harrison is "unretiring" after 20 days. Mosley has a win, his first since 2009, and is now, by Don King's standards a contender for something. Margarito is angling to return to the ring. Riddick Bowe, as I understand it. may attempt muay tai.

Someone said to me once that life will give you the test first, and the lesson later, and this is, of course true.This was a very drunk person, and I never saw them again. But they were right.

They were really only paraphrasing Kierkegaard, who said that "Life must be lived forwards, but it can be only be understood backwards."

We all know this, because I've had untold numbers of people (usually in bars, late at night, and cheap diners, early in the morning) tell me that "hindsight is 20/20." These people, none of whom I ever got to know, and are certainly all dead now, were mostly mourning over some screw-up that they knew, either in the dark hours of the night, or the terrible first light that would make this next day just another nightmare for them, that they had committed, and that the whole mess of their lives was really all their fault.

What's hard here is that every choice is, to the chooser, unknown in outcome, but full of hope. Choosing, especially against the odds, is to bet on the future. That's why the poor and the sick and the uneducated buy lottery tickets: this is in fact their most logical strategy for improving their condition, because however unlikely a win may be, they have absolutely no alternative hope.

We just don't know the outcomes of our decisions, until we've seen the result, and that's when we learn if our choice was the "right" one. We can also say, regardless of the immediate result, and at the time of whatever event may be at issue, that we have no regrets. I've done that, and I've learned that sometimes the gestation period of a choice can extend into decades.

Well, Harrison had made a choice, Mosley has made one, Margarito has made one.

Maybe I'm very, very stupid, which is entirely possible, but I really think that there are really no "lessons" in life. People suffer consequences from actions, and some may be happy, and some may be very sad. Extrapolating from the past into the future is not easy.

So, you only live your life forward, because it pushes and insists on your choices from day-to-day and in fact from hour-to-hour, but you really have no idea what the hell happened until you take account of the wreckage.

But, on a brighter note, I believe that, with Cicero, "Those who have done nothing ill, have never done anything."+

Take take your pick.

<strong><font color="red">FanPosts are user-created content written by community members of Bad Left Hook, and are generally not the work of our editors. <em>Please do not source FanPosts as the work of Bad Left Hook</em>.</font></strong>

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