Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday's Faith - The Work of Love in Remembering One Dead: "The Most Unselfish Love" ~Søren Kierkegaard, Part Two

"If we are to love the men we see, then we are also to love those whom we have seen but see no more because death took them away.... 

"(O)ne must remember the dead; 
weep softly, but grieve long."

Friday's Faith

The Work of Love in Remembering One Dead

"The Most Unselfish Love"

~Søren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855)

Part Two

"Beloved, let us love one another.

1 John 4:7a (NASB)

Excerpt from 
Works of Love
~Søren Kierkegaard

(translated by Howard and Edna Hong)

{Remember, Kierkegaard himself recommends you read his work aloud for best understanding of it!)

The work of love in remembering one who is dead is a work of the MOST UNSELFISH love.

If one wants to make sure that love is completely unselfish, he eliminates every possibility of repayment. But precisely this is eliminated in the relationship to one who is dead. If love nevertheless remains, it is in truth unselfish.

Repayment in connection with love can be quite varied. For that matter one can have outright profit and reward, and this is indeed the persistently common way, the "pagan" way, "to love those who can make repayment." According to this view the repayment is heterogeneous, something different from the love itself. But there is also a repayment for love which is homogeneous with love:  requited love. And there is still so much good in the majority of men that as a rule they will regard this repayment, repayment in the form of gratitude, of thankfulness, of devotion, in short, of requited love, as the most significant, although in another sense they will perhaps not admit that it is repayment and therefore consider that one cannot call love selfish insofar as it seeks this repayment.

---But in no sense do the dead make repayment.

In this respect there is a similarity between lovingly remembering one who is dead and parents' love for children. The parents love their children almost before they exist and long before they become conscious, therefore as non-beings. But one dead is also a non-being. And the two greatest benefactions are these:  to give life to a human being and to remember one dead; yet the first act of love has repayment. If there is no hope at all for parents, no prospect at all of ever having joy in their children and reward for their love---yes, there are still many fathers and mothers who would nevertheless do everything for children:  but there are also many mothers and fathers whose love would grow cold. It is not our intention hereby directly to declare such a father or mother to be unloving; no, but their love is nevertheless so weak or self-love so strong that they need this joyous hope, this encouraging prospect. And with this hope, this prospect, everything would be right again. The parents would say to each other:  "Our little child certainly has a long time ahead of him; there are many years; but in all this time we still have joy in him, and above all, we have the hope that at sometime he will reward our love, will in repayment make our old age happy, if he does nothing else."

The dead, however, make no repayment. One who remembers lovingly can perhaps also say:  "A long life lies before me, dedicated to remembering, but the prospect first and last is the same; in a certain sense there is no threat at all in the prospect, for there simply is no prospect." O, in a certain sense, it is so hopeless; it is such a thankless job, as the farmer says, such a disheartening occupation to remember one who is dead! For one who is dead does not grow and thrive toward the future as does the child: one who is dead merely crumbles away more and more into certain ruin. One who is dead does not give joy to the rememberer as the child gives joy to its mother, does not give him joy as the child gives her joy when to her question about whom he loves most, he answers, "Mother"; one who is dead loves no one most, for he seems to love no one at all. 

O, it is so dejecting that he remains quiet that is way down there in the grave while the longing after him grows, so dejecting that there is no change conceivable except the change of dissolution, more and more! 

True, he is not difficult as the child can be at times; he does not cause sleepless nights, at least not by being difficult---for, remarkably enough, the good child does not cause sleepless nights, and yet the one who is dead causes the more sleepless nights the better he was. 

O, but as far as the most difficult child is concerned there are still the hope and prospect of repayment of love:  but one dead makes no payment at all. Whether you are sleepless and expectant on his account or you completely forget him seems to be completely a matter of indifference to him. 

If, therefore, you wish to test for yourself whether you love disinterestedly, note sometimes how you relate yourself to one who is dead. Much love, doubtless most, would upon closer examination certainly show itself to be self-love. But the situation is this, in the love-relationship among the living there is still the hope, the prospect, of love as repayment, at least the repayment of reciprocated love, and generally repayment is made. But this hope, this prospect, together with the fact that repayment is made, makes a man unable to see with clarity what is love and what is self-love, because one cannot see with clarity whether repayment is expected and in what sense. In relationship to one who is dead. however, the observation is easy. 

O, if one were accustomed truly to love unselfishly, one would certainly remember the dead differently from the way one usually does after the first period, frequently rather brief, in which one loves the dead inordinately enough with cries and clamour.

The work of love in remembering one who is dead is a work of the freest (free-est) love.

To be continued...

Picture, thanks to Grieving Mothers
NASB = New American Standard Bible


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