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Reasons I'm Smiling Right Now

In approximate chronological order:

I'll see you all soon.

July 25, 2005

Falling Short

The following is a roundup of the past week's media, a disparate group that found unity in the common theme of letting me down:

I'm not even going to mention Zelig. Let's just move on and hope next round is better. July 19, 2005 | Comments (4)

Sørens on a Train

I have been reading nothing but Kierkegaard for the last six months. Given that Søren tended to write short, dense essays, you would think that I would have made it through most of his published works by now but in fact I've only finished Fear and Trembling and The Sickness Unto Death. As it turns out, I am only capable of the concentration necessary for reading Kierkegaard while riding a train. I tried reading it at home and on vacation, at night and during the day, in the car and at the beach, but only when I was confined to a train during waking hours with no other forms of entertainment available was I able to focus intently enough to tangle with the Dane. Since my train travel is limited to infrequent work-related trips into the city (a few days in February, a week in May), my productivity suffered dearly. If I ever decide to write a thesis on Kierkegaard, I will immediately purchase a ticket for the Trans-Siberian Railway.

It is not for lack of thinking about these books that I haven't been able to write anything about them. Quite the opposite, in fact--both were completely absorbing and I had a hard time thinking about anything else while reading them. The Sickness Unto Death is almost paralyzing in its incisiveness. The topic is despair, which he explores in all its forms and levels of seriousness (in relation to how far one is from not being in despair). What makes Kierkegaard so effective on this topic is his intricate knowledge of the human spirit and the various reactions to the paradoxes of existence. This requires a master of many disciplines, including but not limited to theology, psychology, and philosophy, and he pulls it off easily, even making a dense book on such a serious subject quite readable. One of the best things about reading this book was the way it permeated the rest of my life, influencing the way I looked at everything I read, watched and even my daily interactions. I think that this is a book that everyone should read. I can't imagine a person for whom it wouldn't be relevant.

Fear and Trembling, on the other hand, gave me a tougher time. The form and language are more difficult but it was still very much worth trudging through. The story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 is simply not an easy one to reconcile but this is as good of an analysis as I've heard. His portrayal of Abraham is uplifting yet very humbling--like Kierkegaard, I "cannot understand" him, "in a way all I can learn from him is to be amazed"--but even more impressive is his presentation of faith, a movement made on "the strength of the absurd." One of the hardest things about reading Kierkegaard is that he doesn't make anything seem easy. In other words, he's brutally honest. Want to be a Christian? It's one of the hardest things you could ever do and you're never done. If you want to stay out of despair, you "must at every moment destroy the possibility." And this is just the basics, we can't even begin to consider someone as great as Abraham. It's always good to be brought back down to size but that doesn't mean it will ever be easy.

Since I can't seem to escape the grasp of existentialism--I Heart Huckabees, which I thought was well-intentioned and amusing but ultimately fell a little short, was the last straw--I have decided to embrace it. My next book is Camus's The Stranger and I'm flying through it. It's nice to be able to read outside of the train again.

July 10, 2005

Recipe For a Perfect 4th of July

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks over the East River

Some weekends are so full of goodness that words can't do them justice. Attempting to describe every moment and how great it was would only be a dizzying distraction from the real joy of having lived it, not to mention sounding like tedious bragging. Where words fail, images must suffice.

Launch Recipe For a Perfect 4th of July

July 05, 2005 | Comments (1)