31 December 2013

Happy New Year - 1844

Sitting, enjoying some quiet holiday pause, I am reading my way Kierkegaard's Stages on Life's Way, and he unexpectedly had something to say about the New Year, which I thought worth sharing today.

"In case a man in all seriousness surrenders himself to love, he can say that he has lots of assurance, if only he can get any assurance company to take the risk, for a material so inflammable as woman must always make the insurer suspicious.  What has he done?  He has identified himself with her: if on New Year's Eve she goes off like a rocket, he goes with her, or if that does not occur, he has nevertheless come into pretty close affinity with danger..."
-Constantin Constantius 

Source: thedanishpioneer.com
... And now, a bit of context!  Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher with really excellent hair.  His book, Stages, is a collection of 'found writing' purportedly by a variety of different authors, put together into one volume by an intrepid (and equally fictional) book dealer.  The three works, "In Vino Veritas: The Banquet", "Observations about Marriage" and "Guilty/Not Guilty", presents perspectives from the several speakers on love and life.

I find "In Vino Veritas: The Banquet" something of a tough nut to crack.  The premise is fairly simple: several men go off into the woods and get rip-roaring drunk while opining about women.  The present speaker (good ole Constantin) seems to be of the mindset that any sort of congress with ladies is an inherent risk, offering up the novel concept of 'love insurance'.

The book seems an odd collection of conversation and opinions, some or all (or none) of which may be Kirkegaard's (though the notes imply that he was hung up on some woman named Regine, and his thoughts on love and life were heavily influenced by that failed relationship).  In what would become a tradition of existential writers, the text contains what seems to be a simple narrative, with piles of introspection (and in this case elocution), the content of which seems over simple - the meaning of which is to consider simple existence.

Regardless, on this New Year's Eve day a century and a half later, I wish you a Merry New Year (it seems to me that merriment goes much better with celebrating a new year, whereas happiness should be more to do with Christmas (or whatever gift-giving, family oriented holiday you may celebrate).  Make it a good one, and a safe one, though, of course, there can be no assurances...

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