Jan 23, 2011

Kierkegaard's thoughts on the Apostle

Extract 1:

A frivolous, vain individual always has an extraordinary conception of an apostle's high honor — i.e., the good fortune, the glory of being an apostle; a humble, profound individual always has an extraordinary conception of an apostle's sufferings.

Extract 2:

An Illusion

The supposed humility and modesty

in admitting that one does not call

himself an apostle.

Here again is a confusion which appears with the help of "Christendom", which again has turned all Christian concepts topsy-turvy — that is, has prevented them from being what they were originally: turned around.

One is said to be humble and modest if he says: I do not call myself an apostle. Consequently to call oneself an apostle is pride, conceit. That this can be pride and conceit I do not deny; I desire only to illuminate the relationship a little better.

When one speaks this way, the presupposition is that to be an apostle is a distinction; the humility and modesty lie in not claiming distinction. Fine. But like everything Christian, to be an apostle is not a straightforward distinction but a distinction turned around. Here comes a little N.B. In relationship to all direct distinction or distinguishing, the matter is very simple; if it is true that I make no claims, this is being modest, for a direct distinction is without secondary qualifications a direct earthly benefit. But to be an apostle is sheer earthly suffering. Well, if an apostle could be permitted to live again after his teaching had won out, then it could perhaps be an earthly benefit to be an apostle. But while he was living, calling himself an apostle did not help him on the way to honor, respect, or earthly advantage. Precisely this, that he called himself an apostle, was the signal for his having to suffer more than the other adherents, suffer until death.

This is what it means to be an apostle — something quite different from that later conception, which with the help of an illusion takes the apostle in vain.*

*In margin:

And it must be remembered that in a certain sense there is nothing we are all more equally close to than to being an apostle, simply because here there is no question of the esthetic difference of being a genius, of having talent, etc. Certainly every human being has the right to order his life just as an apostle with regard to poverty, suffering for the truth, etc., except that he does not have the right to appeal to divine authority. But he must not feel embarrassed about the first [being like an apostle], least of all out of modesty; that is, if there is to be any question about true modesty, it must be to confess that one is too weak and sensuous, therefore to bring accusation against oneself; it must not be as when I am too modest to ask to become an ambassador, a demigod artist, knight of all the European orders, etc.

But if this is the case, then to ask to be regarded as modest because one does not call himself an apostle becomes questionable, for this can also be worldly ingenuity and effeminacy.

For the confusing word "apostle" (which has subsequently become secularized and identified with the other distinctions of the world) let us substitute a whole lifetime of being laughed at, mocked, persecuted, poor, jailed, and slain. If someone now says: I am not so immodest as to demand to become "His Excellency," etc. — well, this is quite direct. But let someone say: I am not so immodest as to demand to become poor, impoverished, outcast in the world, laughed at, slain — well, this is not quite as direct; for in each generation it is impossible to find ten peersons who have courage for this. Consequently it can also be worldly ingenuity and effeminacy which hold one back but also want the advantage of being regarded as humble. This is questionable.

O, if what Christianity is were only kept clearly in mind! That it is not a doctrine but an existence [Existents], that what is needed is not professors but witnesses [Vidner] — then we would be free of all this self-important scholarliness [Videnskabelighed], these show-offs who are scholars — something Christianity now needs. No, if Christ did not need scholars but was satisfied with fishermen, what is needed now is more fishermen. Precisely because Christ was present, the danger would not have been so great if Christianity had fallen into the hands of scholars.

The error is not the studying, but the error is that the accent continually falls on the wrong place — on penetrating and presenting — thus to do something about it becomes ridiculous, a triviality. A simple man, however, has no distractions. Such a man straightway fastens his gaze upon his life, whether it has any meaning or is completely meaningless. But this simplification with regard to drawing up the account is of utmost importance; for then the accent falls on the right place, on existence [Existentsen].

Extract 3:

"The Apostle"

The condition sine qua non for all enjoyment of life is a certain evenness; the person with a most wretched lot also can gain a certain enjoyment if he only has this daily evenness.

But no other situation in life, not one, makes it so impossible to enjoy life as being an apostle. This horrifying life of being tossed in a blanket. At one moment to be brought into direst need, perhaps ravenously hungry, then to be willing — if it be God's will — to die of hunger — and then get a reprimand: You of little faith! Or, in order not to suffer ravenous hunger, to be quite willing to work for his livelihood — and then, just as he is beginning at it, a miracle happens, and he gets a reproof: You of little faith! O, it is a dreadful misery, a kind of conscious madness in all his blessedness, for it is like madness.

Ah, however spoiled and frivolous I am, so much will surely be granted me that I at least have dared venture far enough to be honest toward the extraordinary and not to take him in vain, at least to have a tolerably true idea of how infinitely the extraordinary has suffered.

Extract 4:

Serpens, nisi serpentum comederit, non fit Draco.

Further: a rat is trained to bite rats by eating a rat out of hunger.

The reverse: only a person who is bitten by men becomes an apostle; this belongs in order to qualify his passion; an apostle in direct understanding with men is an impossibility.

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