In our world, filled with discussions of human misery and need, I find myself deeply contemplating these issues. Having seen and experienced a fair share of life’s hardships, I began a search for answers to the questions of happiness and despair. This led me to The Sickness Unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard. Through reading and now re-translating this book into modern English, I’ve come to a profound realisation about the nature of despair and the essence of our existence.
Often, we hear about the tragedy of a wasted life. But what truly constitutes a wasted life? Is it merely failing to achieve worldly success or experiencing constant sorrow? Kierkegaard argues that a genuinely wasted life is one lived in deception – either by life’s fleeting pleasures or its inevitable sorrows. The greatest tragedy lies in never making an eternal, decisive realisation of oneself as a spirit, a self.
The heart of the matter is the awareness and deep impact of God’s existence and our existence for God. This realisation is the gateway to infinity, an attainment unreachable except through the depths of despair. The blissful thought that many are deprived of is the understanding of their own self in relation to the divine.
In our world, too many are kept busy with the dramas of life, their energies expended on everything but the one thing that truly matters. People are piled up, engaged in endless activities, yet they are often deceived and kept away from realising their highest potential – the only pursuit worth living for and sufficient for an eternity.
One of the most horrific aspects of this tragic state of existence is its hiddenness. Despair can reside so deeply within a person that it remains undetected by others and, more alarmingly, by the person themselves. As time marches on, and the distractions of the world fade away, what remains is the silent question of eternity.
In the stillness of eternity, every individual – regardless of their worldly status, accomplishments, or failures – faces a single, profound inquiry: Did you live in despair? It doesn’t matter whether this despair was recognised or hidden, whether it was a secret torment or a visible storm. If one’s life was marked by despair, unrecognised or not, then everything else they achieved or lost bears little significance.
Eternity’s judgment is not based on our worldly triumphs or defeats but on how we grappled with our innermost selves and our relationship with the divine. Those who lived in despair, regardless of their external circumstances, face a harsh truth: they are unknown to eternity, or worse, known only in their despair.
This reflection brings a solemn realisation – the essence of our lives is not measured by our visible successes or failures but by our inner journey towards understanding ourselves and our relationship with the higher power. It’s a journey often marked by despair but one that can lead to the most profound awakening. As we navigate our lives, let us strive to uncover and confront the hidden despair within, seeking a deeper connection with our true selves and the divine, for that is the path to a life truly lived and recognised by eternity.