Would Kierkegaard bless BreakAways? Ja.

Posted on: Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
Posted in: SoulTrain, Blog | Leave a comment


photo by Kirk Horsted

A BreakAway is a spiritual thing.  A BreakAway brings on introspection—whether the pause is 10 minutes of meditation or 10 months in the Mediterranean.   It’s an opportunity to come face to face with ourselves–not just an escape to a “happier” place.

Many folks, it seems, deliberately resist slowing down their bodies and minds, and thus they avoid contemplation. We are too busy.  Or we find ways to numb and dumb down our spirit (e.g. TV, FB, PBR).

  • Do people actually FEAR downtime?

Many Americans don’t take planned breaks.  Heck, many don’t even take their vacation allocation, as if they FEAR getting fired, bored or too deep into their own navel.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (SK), a student of Fear and Anxiety, but also Love, encouraged introspection—and also understood the difference between despair and depression. My alma mater, St. Olaf College, was a place where one rarely graduated without a heavy dose of Kierkegaard (with a chaser of despair).

While my only Kierkegaard course spanked me with my only C, I feel blessed by the exposure and still ponder the wisdom. And despite the modern-day market’s onslaught of simplistic spiritual self-help, SK’s challenging works thrive on.  One need look no further than the hundreds of replies to this NYT opinion piece by St. Olaf’s reigning SK scholar (and part-time boxing trainer), Gordon Marino.

  • Are  you happy!?!

“Are you happy?” has become a catchphrase of our times, with “happy” being the relentless pursuit—if not expectation—of everything from prescription pills (like Prozac) to popular blogsites (like “The Happiness Project”) to electronics shopping (Best Buy’s slogan is now “You, Happy”)

SK and Prof. Marino might rankle the unquestioning optimists, as neither seems to believe in effortless, auto-happiness.  As Marino writes,

If Kierkegaard were on Facebook or could post a You Tube video, he would certainly complain that we, who have listened to Prozac, have become deaf to the ancient distinction between psychological and spiritual disorders, between depression and despair.”

For some of us, the mental playground at times features wobbly mood swings and melancholy merry-go-rounds.  It ain’t always a walk in the park, but perhaps it beats a lifetime of Prozac dependency or, worse, dishonest self-talk and superficial soul-searching.

After all, Zen teachings insist that despair is not only universal, it’s part of the universal human experience—and offers the essential pathway to enlightenment.  When you think you’ve got it all figured out, think again.  Is there not always more to learn?  More to see?  More to ponder—for better or worse?

  • Get lost:  It pays

To live—really live—is to get lost at times:  In a mission, in meditation, in the Caribbean.  How else does the spirit emerge and ascend?

Marino preaches the importance of the spirit, while also distinguishing one’s spirit from one’s ever-evolving mind.  You can have a healthy spirit—even when you suffer from depression.

These days, depression must run rampant; 10% of Americans are now on anti-depressants.  Søren would not be happy.  But he might prescribe more (not less) introspection, as does Marino:

Within a few years, e-mail and Twitter moved the art of letter writing to the trash bin. And in an age when all psychic life is being understood in terms of neurotransmitters, the art of introspection has become passé.”

Which brings us back to the beginning:  “A BreakAway is a spiritual thing.”

This website is dedicated to the notion of taking and making time to wander and float, in all forms and spaces, wherever that may lead (and it’s not always to Cloud 9).  A BreakAway forces (and welcomes) introspection—including to confront whatever despair may lurk within one’s self.  That face-off may feature…

  • Longing…to step out of a rut and chase a dream
  • Wanderlust…to let self and spirit run free for a while
  • Escape…from an oppressive job, relationship or routine

From introspection, one hopes, comes true growth and—maybe—even true contentment, if not simple happiness.  Or, as Søren Kierkegaard put it…

There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.”

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