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Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken

Potential and Despair


Soeren_kierkegaard_5627In despairing over something, [a person] really despaired over himself, and now he wants to be rid of himself. For example, when the ambitious man whose slogan is ‘Either Caesar or nothing’ does not get to be Caesar, he despairs over it. But this also means something else: precisely because he did not get to be Caesar, he now cannot bear to be himself…. This self, which, if it had become Caesar, would have been in seventh heaven (a state, incidentally, that in another sense is just as despairing), this self is now utterly intolerable to him. In a deeper sense, it is not his failure to become Caesar that is intolerable, but it is this self that did not become Caesar that is intolerable; or, to put it even more accurately, what is intolerable to him is that he cannot get rid of himself.If he had become Caesar, he would despairingly get rid of himself, but he did not become Caesar and cannot despairingly get rid of himself. Essentially, he is just as despairing, for he does not save his self, is not himself. He would not have become himself by becoming Caesar but would have been rid of himself, and by not becoming Caesar he despairs over not being able to get rid of himself.

That’s from Soren Kierkegaard in his amazing The Sickness unto Death. I was trying to write about potential and the curse of failed potential when I recalled a portion of this quote. As Kierkegaard has already said it better than I ever could, I will leave you to consider his words.

One comment on “Potential and Despair

  1. Pingback: The Person Who Cannot Despair | From guestwriters

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2014 by in Authors I like and tagged , , , .

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