Let’s return to the question, does Sören Kierkegaard offer a cure for depression, which he called melancholy?
Because Kierkegaard offers nothing easy or simple, the opposite may appear more likely. He would have us live by Christ’s standards, without recourse to excuse or compromise. To attempt living out such an idealistic set of prescriptions might only add pressure to our minds, and the pressure might drive us into even darker places.
But if what he writes is the truth, and if the truth will set us free (John 8:32), then the ticket to freedom is not less pressure but more truth. And if the truth won’t set us free from depression, how valid is the assertion that the truth will set us free? And if that assertion proves invalid, isn’t all belief in Christ and his wisdom called into question?
Unless we’re inclined to credit Christ with superior wisdom, engaging with Kierkegaard might prove simply annoying. So let’s suppose that Christ hit the mark with his proposition that the truth can set us free.
Sure, we could debate endlessly about the definition of this “truth” Christ referred to, and about what on earth “free” means. But I’d rather leave such debates to folks with time on their hands, and move on with our attempt to heal melancholy.
Kierkegaard was fanatically devoted to discovering truth. And he offers a wealth of insight about human nature, which should lead to insights about our individual selves. Applying these insights can save us from harmful attitudes and actions.
Kierkegaard was deeply suspicious of intelligence, which he referred to as cleverness. The clever, he maintains, are more apt to expend their powers creating excuses than to use their cleverness in the quest for honest self-discovery.
When I studied Tae Kwon Do, Master Jeong would respond to every excuse, for failure to execute a move or for lack of progress toward the next level, with stony silence. I suspect most every psychologist and educator would agree that excuses are the archenemy of growth and learning.
But not so many of us recognize that the clever are most in danger, as they can dream up the most convincing excuses.
I’m not remarkably clever. Still, I am going to try throwing out my best excuses and re-opening the inquiries that inspired them.
Ken Kuhlken, 9-18-11