The existential dilemma — the heart’s predicament — revealed by Angst is not only threatening, but is also an invitation, virtually a summons, to heroism.
This heroism lives in the paradox and contradiction, must bear and endure it, be hit and bitten by it.
Only passion can sustain such heroism.
Here we have Kierkegaard’s discerning of the difference between the Knight of Resignation and the Knight of Faith.
Faith is like the bird who flies in the Abyss without knowing the principle of its flight. Faith is the leap of passion into the Abyss.
We gamble on life with our own life; we risk more, so give more, because we accept the risk.
Ernest Becker claims “man cannot stand the thought of his actual condition.” But Kierkegaard is suggesting something more ambivalent.
Despair is when we despair of the self standing up to, and venturing, this condition. Despair= not wanting to have a self. Kierkegaard= “To despair over oneself, in despair to will to be rid of oneself– this is the formula for all despair” [p 19, ‘The Sickness Unto Death’].
But why do we turn against our self so fundamentally? We turn against it, repudiating it, wanting it not just dead but not to exist, and never to have existed, when in our deep heart we believe we have failed the summons to heroism.
Despair is the result of losing faith, existential faith. When faith is gone, we summarily and ‘finally’ reject the self.
Despair is despair in passion taking it all on, and not foreclosing the uncertainty and the agony prematurely.