Monday, February 23, 2009

Johannes de Silentio

From the beginning of the reading you come to understand that the story of Abraham, Isaac, and God means a lot to Kierkegaard. He says that the story had been in his mind ever since he was little. The older he grew however, the less and less he understood to the point that all that he longed for was to have witnessed the event itself. It wasn't that he couldn't imagine the event, but rather that he couldn't comprehend how one would give up all he knows and place complete faith in God. Because of this he sets out to rewrite the story in as different outcomes as he can think of. These never turn out as good as the story that is told in the old testament, however.

The first tells the story of how Abraham tells his son Isaac that he was to sacrifice him at the mountain. This way he makes it appear to Isaac as if he wanted to kill him, and that God would never ask of something like this of him. "Lord in Heaven, I thank Thee; it is after all better that he believe I am a monster than that he lose faith in thee" (46). This is so much worse than the original story, because Abraham loses his son, and God's greatness is never known by Isaac who lives his life as believing God as he has only ever known Him.

The second story stays true to the original until the point where Abraham sees a ram, thus deciding to sacrifice that instead of his son. This is completely anti-climactic, nothing happens, everything stays the same, and no one learns of God's compassion.

The third retelling involves Abraham going to the mountain to plead to God to let his son live. Isaac is not even involved in this version, and nothing happens, except Abraham is eternally confused as to why he would want to harm his son in the first place. He thinks of himself as a horrible father and lets his own misguided understanding of the situation lead him to make a decision against God's plan.

The final version Abraham instead of hurting Isaac, hurts himself hoping this enough to please God. He doesn't realize that his son sees this, and because he does loses all faith in God.

In all these alternate endings the son is lost. Abraham is unable to remove himself from his own understanding in order to place complete faith in God. In fact God is completely absent from these different outcomes. The event had to occur in the way that it did for there to be any significance. Otherwise there is no meaning, no reason for remembrance, no point in having faith.

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying to get a handle on the meaning of the "Dialectic Lyric" in the subtitle. I read it a while back and should probably dig it up again. But if you could clue me in that would be great.

    Is it the multiple tellings with alternate endings that provide the "dialectic" aspect?

    And then what is meant by "lyric"? Is it that much more lyrical than other dialectics?