I have been reading Fear and Trembling and Kierkegaard and Christian Faith. As is the case sometimes with me, both have raised similar ideas. Both have said something to me that I needed to hear.
I was really struck by the first article in the second book, “An Introduction to False Pretenses, Søren Kierkegaard, and Trying on Faith for Size” by Kathleen Norris. (As a small aside, Norris also writes an introduction to a collection of poems by Thomas Merton that I am reading.) In the article she makes the point that she is not a philosopher – not about making distinction. Rather she is a person that makes connections. A lightbulb moment: that is me! Some of the distinctions of academic philosopher make my head spin. But I naturally connect various ideas (without intellectually fully understanding the background or finer points of the argument) into something meaningful for me.
Fear and Trembling is written by Kierkegaard under the pseudonym of Johannes de silentio. In the Preface he makes the point that he is no philosopher because he is not a system builder. He is, rather, an outsider looking in. I have spent my life looking for the perfect system all in an attempt to escape myself. But I have always been the outsider who takes a position within the system not taken by others.
All of this made me think:
- I need to reject the labels of theologian (which I can claim by academic training and and experience) and philosopher (which I can claim by experience).
- I am no system builder because I do not think systems can define. Systems have no authority.
- I am an outsider looking in. I am simply an Observer who sees themes in the world around him.