In 1843, while contending with the melancholy that was a motive for the urgency and intensity of his work, Sören Kierkegaard wrote this journal entry:
“The most important thing of all is that a man stands right toward God, does not try to wrench away from something, but rather penetrates it until it yields its explanation. Whether or not it turns out as he wishes; it is still the best of all.”
One of the heaviest challenges of my life was a years-long bout with panic attacks, in the heat of which, family problems deposed what balance I had and left me alternating between panic and severe depression.
My friend Charlie Morgan, then a graduate Psychology student, recommended The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck. In that book I discovered an insight that started my healing and which I still try to live by.
Before, I believed that by defining life and events according to my preference I was avoiding pain. I agreed with the 1960s bumper sticker, “Reality is a Crutch.” From the wisdom of Scott Peck, I recognized that dedication to facing or seeking the truth, about large matters and small, sets me free from the pain, emotional and often physical, that are symptoms of living with illusions. The truth guides us out of the night woods and into the morning meadow. And/or it loosens the stranglehold of a conscience whose job is to turn us away from the selfish and destructive and toward the Good.
Kierkegaard maintains that peace of mind requires purity of heart. To achieve purity of heart requires that we only seek one thing, the Good. And, he assures us, we can’t begin to know or approach the Good except by undertaking a penetrating search for the truth. And as a prerequisite for penetrating the truth, we need to accept one of two premises. Either:
• Christ is God
• or God isn’t anything.
Anyone who cares to argue or question the proposition that those are the only two valid choices should consider tackling Kierkegaard’s Either/Or.