Posts by: S?ren Kierkegaard

One Second to Choose - The Freedom of No Choice

A human being is Flow. But what is Flow

Flow is the self. But what is the self

The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relations relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relations relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the forever, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis.

The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it. *

Is it not a peculiar yet profound use of language that someone may say: There is absolutely no question here of any choiceI choose this and that.

Furthermore, an authentic life posture can say to an individual: You shall choose the one thing needful, but in such a way that there must be no question of any choicethat is, if you fool around a long time, then you are not really choosing the one thing needful; a relationship of authenticity, it must be chosenfirst. Consequently there is something in relation to which there must not be, and by definition there can be, a choice, and yet there is a choice. Consequently, the very fact that there is no choice expresses the tremendous passion or intensity with which one chooses. Can there be a more accurate expression for the fact that freedom of choice is only a formal condition of freedom and that emphasizing freedom of choice as such means the sure loss of freedom The content of freedom is decisive for freedom to such an extent that the very truth of freedom of choice is: there must be no choice, even though there is a choice.

This is Flow. But precisely because human beings are a long way from being Flow, precisely therefore does freedom make so much trouble for them, since they continually remain suspended in freedom of choice. The reflection which is associated with the indolent and base stares fixedly at freedom of choice instead of remembering that there must be no choiceand then chooses. However surprising it may seem, one may say therefore that only fear and trembling and only constraint can help a person to freedom. For fear and trembling and constraint can master one in such a way that it is not a question of any choiceand then one very likely chooses the right thing.

In the moment of death, most people choose the right thing.

But of what use is science and scholarship None, none at all! It relaxes everything in calm, objective observationand thus freedom becomes an unaccountable something.

Freedom really is freedom only when, in the same moment, the same second, it is (freedom of choice), it rushes with infinite speed to bind itself unconditionally by the choice of attachment, the choice whose truth is that there can be no question of any choice.

It is the indescribable wonder of almighty love that Intimate-Ultimate Reality can really concede to an individual so much that, in regard to oneself, can want to speak almost like a suitor: Will you have me, or will you notand then wait one single second for the answer.

Alas, but a human being is not sufficiently Flow. S/he thinks: Since the choice is left to me, I will take my own time and first of all think it over very earnestly. Tragic anti-climax! Earnestness is precisely to choose Intimate-Ultimate Reality immediately and first of all. And so one lies there and conjures with a phantom: freedom of choice, whether one has it or whether one does not, etc.and even does it in a scientific-scholarly way. S/he does not notice that s/he has missed freedom. And so s/he diverts him/herself, perhaps, for a while with the idea of freedom of choice until it changes again, and s/he begins to doubt whether s/he has freedom of choice. And now s/he has also lost freedom of choice. It is because of an utterly wrong maneuver that s/he confuses everything. By staring fixedly at freedom of choice instead of choosing, one loses both freedom and freedom of choice. Nor can it be attained again by reflection; if it is to be gained again, it must be by intensified fear and trembling, called forth by the thought of having wasted it.

The most tremendous thing conceded to a human being ischoice, freedom. If you want to rescue and keep it, there is only one wayin the very same second unconditionally in full attachment give it back to Intimate-Ultimate Reality and yourself along with it. If the sight of what is conceded to you tempts you, if you surrender to the temptation and look with selfish craving at freedom of choice, then you lose your freedom. And your punishment then is to go around in a kind of confusion and brag about havingfreedom of choice. Woe to you, this is the judgment upon youyou have freedom of choice, you say, and yet you have not chosen Intimate-Ultimate Reality. Then you become ill; freedom of choice becomes your fixed idea; finally you become like the rich person morbidly imagining that s/he has become impoverished and will die of want. You sigh that you have lost the freedom of choiceand the mistake is merely that you do not sorrow deeply enough so that you get it back again. **

Sren Kierkegaard

  • Kierkegaard, Sren, The Sickness Unto Death, ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H., Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1980, p 13-14.

** Kierkegaard, Sren, Journals and Papers, Volume II, ed. and trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H., Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana University Press: 1970, Entry # 1261, p 67. (entry 1850)

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