Friday, June 12, 2015

lightness has a call that's hard to hear

I'm trying to tell you somethin' about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It's only life after all

I always feel a little weird about how much I like the Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine,” given that I majored in Philosophy and have spent some of the most formative summers of my life at grown up philosophy “camp.” Then again, it makes sense that a Kierkegaardian would be skeptical of “the doctor of philosophy/With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee” while simultaneously being, well, a philosopher. This week my suitemate and I discussed an elaborate analogy for how Kierkegaard fits into the wide world of philosophy: he is like the crazy uncle who gets seated at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving because, well, we know he’s one to start food fights, so let’s just be preemptive and put him in the corner now, shall we? Good ol’ Uncle Søren. In certain circles, studying his work isn’t going to make you any friends, but I like sitting at that table.

Yesterday, during the first Summer Fellows seminar, we had a lively conversation, each person reading a passage from Kierkegaard’s work that is meaningful to us and sharing why. After one person started, others slowly piped up, picking up a thread from the person who had spoken before, noting that perhaps her passage resonated a bit with his, and carrying the discussion forward. Our interests are wide-ranging, yet certain ideas echoed throughout our chosen passages and research interests.

Visiting the library these past few years has been for me both an academic testing ground (a place of great seriousness and searching), and a place I have learned to take my life less seriously, as the song goes. Not that I am actually much good at taking life less seriously, but at least I know that about myself, now. My first summer here I arrived a ball of nerves because I wasn’t sure I could hack it at the big kids table (I can), but throughout that summer those knots started to loosen. And now, when I return, I feel myself begin to unwind as soon as I set foot on campus. To be as high strung as I am capable of being, as serious as I have been for much of my life, and study a philosopher-poet as playful as Kierkegaard is a bit silly, isn’t it? Then again, he’s also intense beyond anything I have ever been. What a vibrant (if also heavy) inner world he must have had. I relate to that, the flurry and mess of my own mind so wild I can barely keep up with it. I admire the way Kierkegaard set those imaginary constructs down on paper, painstakingly, day after day. And that, perhaps, is why lately I am so interested in the man himself.

My days here find a neat rhythm, one free from certain practicalities of daily life, and that too helps me to unwind. It helps me to settle those wiley thoughts a bit, to set a few down on paper myself.

Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores