The dread of death, for all its power to paralyse and sicken us, is necessary.
This doubt cramps our sense of adventure. Yet, like a flint striking stone, it also sparks our venturing forth into the gamble that is existence.
Kierkegaard= “Angst demolishes all finite aims.”
God is inexplicable and unfathomable, but the God of the Abyss who confronts the human heart is not arbitrary. If we, for our part, take the ultimate risk with God, venturing our self to the Abyss, then God will, for his part, uphold us in the Abyss. The heart will be upheld in its achingly difficult struggle to stand up, and stand for, God in the world.
The only cure for ‘performance anxiety’ is performance!
Yet is God with, and in, our depths of heart?
This becomes an issue in the life of faith, the issue.
This is where our heartbreak begins. God doesn’t catch us like we do our children when they throw themselves off a ledge.
Faith is born of dread, born of deep doubt, doubt about there existing anything to ‘uphold’ what is deep.
In Angst, dread and faith, deep doubt about the unknown and deep trust in the unknown, are heads and tails of the same coin. Kierkegaard is saying that faith is born of dread. Faith is not that reassuring certainty that banishes dread. Faith is forged by the ‘squeeze’ — the pressure and ache, the terror and horror — of dread.
Kierkegaard= “..not that faith.. annihilates dread, but.. it is continually developing itself out of the death throes of dread.”
If dread disappeared in faith, we would be in cloud cuckoo land.
False religious, false secular, ‘escapes’ offer an ‘inauthentic’ way out of dread.
But the atheistic existentialists, like Sartre — the paradigm of the Knight of Resignation, the arch existential tough guy — react to only one side of dread= the deathly, the abysmal, ‘Nothing.’ But they miss that death, and the Abyss, is not only the defeat of all earthly hopes, but the Call, virtually the invitation, to risk something beyond all hope.
I gamble on life with my own life in how far ‘out’ on a limb I go, in how far ‘to the end of the line’ I keep going.
This changes the qualitative character of the existential dilemma. No longer is it a matter of either there is no meaning whatsoever, full stop, or I subjectively create meanings that reflect the resources and resoluteness of my own depths, whether of soul or heart. There is a third way.
Alternatively to this either/or, I test and prove a meaning by risking my whole heart, and my only life, to it.
This testing and proving is in time. It comes between the Mysterious Beginning and the Mysterious End, but does not remain ‘stalled’ there.. It drives forward. By doing this, it embarks on a long journey and a fierce fight. It enters the existential arena, which is — as Heraclitus insists — a battlefield of outer contention and inner struggle.
Heraclitus= “War is the father and king of all, some he has shown forth as gods and others as men, some he has made free and others slaves.” For Heraclitus, ‘war’, or strife, is “the upsetting factor which moves static situations into unwilling change” [William Harris]. And= “Homer was wrong in saying, ‘Would that strife might perish amongst gods and men.’ For if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist.”
But, the real difference between ‘toughing it out’ in Resignation, or ‘taking the risk of throwing oneself into it’ in Faith, is love.
Toughing it out is loveless. Taking the risk is only possible through love.
There is an existentialism of freedom, of the cold will, that stands opposed to a very different existentialism of love, of the warm passion.
The former existential stand, exemplified in Sartre, Heidegger, the early Camus, is without heart. That is why its ‘experience’ of the Abyss is true as far as it goes, but does not go far enough.
The latter existential stand, exemplified in Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Unamuno, Kafka, late Camus, Buber, is through the heart.
The inexplicable, and unfathomable, summons rising from the Abyss is addressed to the heart, only to the heart, not to the mind and not to the soul; and it is the ‘invite’ to the heart, to take the risk, to venture and keep travelling, for love.
For love, jump in, and trust your wings will flap. But put the jumping before the flapping.
For love, stand up, and trust you will be upheld. But put the standing before the upholding.
This changes the experiential power of the Abyss, for whilst retaining its ability to cripple, it acquires the capacity to fill the heart with the power that will help it exercise its own personal, free, passionate, risk-taking commitment to love.
This makes the heart’s conflict different. For even what hurts the heart becomes not just deep in the sense of the abysmal, but it becomes deep in the sense of the profound.
The heart’s trials and tribulations, the awe and the awfulness of what it faces and what it has to pass through, acquires terrible profundity, and becomes ‘the greatest story ever told.’ The fate of the heart is the only real story in existence.
To come through, there will be sadness and anger. There will be much harming and being harmed. We will have to carry much for each other, to get through.
There will be much ‘wheat and tares’ mixed together. If you try to ‘sort it’ prematurely, you only hurt people worse than they are already hurting.
Love is not enough, if by love is meant Christian agape, or Buddhist compassion. The love that gives the heart, and drives passion, is born of deep grief and sparks great fire.
This is the Love Supreme that fills the Abyss when we risk the Abyss is empty.
This is God’s heart upholding the human heart. This is finding, in the depth of the Abyss, a final groundless ground on which all hearts stand with each other, and stand with God.