Sunday, January 19, 2003

Woman/Man -- From Kierkegaard's Journals

  - The more a body is organically developed, the more dreadful is the decay.  When grass rots, there is a fragrance.  When an animal rots, it stinks.  A man's perdition is dreadful, more dreadful even than a woman's.  Is this a proof that man is superior to woman?

  - . . . she is more sensate than man; for were she more spiritual she could never have her culmination point in another.  Spirit is the true independent.
     Of course every religious view, like every more profound philosophical view, sees woman, despite this difference, as essentially identical with man; but it is not foolish enough to forget for that reason the truth of the difference, aesthetically and ethically understood.

  - The whole plan of "A Thousand and One Nights" is very profound.  This battle between masculinity and femininity, the fact that femininity conquers by means of her storytelling, her persuasiveness.  In the future the Sultan, who has discovered the basic unfaithfulness of all women, intends to have every woman put to death after one single night.  Then Scheherazade offers to save the sex (since the Sultan demands one every night it must end rather soon with the eradication of the women) and she saves the sex by telling stories, which means: go with her and you can never get rid of her.  Fundamentally there is a terrible tenacity: No man could go on living this way for three years facing the possibility of death - but a woman can - if only she gets permission to tell stories.  A woman does not have the strength for a break or finds it difficult to make such a decision, but she is able to conquer by means of your not being able to get rid of her.

  - Woman's reflection is almost overpowering to her; this is why it is so dangerous for a woman to reflect.  A woman's reflection usually goes like this: if she has won on one point or another, she is so overcome herself that she cannot avoid gazing at her victory - and then she stumbles.
     The man is more essentially character; and character consists not so much in winning as in continuing after having won, keeping in character.  The woman endures something and counts on the approaching moment when she can take a deep breath.  This moment is precisely the danger.  Character is essentially continuity.

 - It was Eve who seduced the man - in compensation there is no undertaking more appealing to a woman than to become loved by someone who has gone astray and who now, in loving her, will let himself be led along the right path.  This appeals to a woman so much that she is not infrequently deceived, because such a person puts everything over on her - and she believes everything - perhaps also because the thought of being the man's savior is so very satisfying to her.

  - For woman the temptation to misuse cunning (for example, to deceive) corresponds to man's temptation to misuse power.  The fact that the woman's guilt is always more strongly emphasized than the man's is basically an indirect compliment to the woman, an admission of the degree to which she is the stronger sex in cunning.

  -  In the New Testament the matter is put this way: "Let all those trivialities, those egotistical trivialities with which men generally fill their lives - job, marriage, having children, getting to be somebody in the world - let them all go, break with them completely, and let your life be dedicated to loving God, to being sacrificed for the human race.  Be salt!"  This is what our Lord Jesus Christ calls Christianity.  When a man is intending to get married, the invitation (see the Gospel) comes to him: Let it go - and become a Christian, etc.

     Now Christianity has become the very opposite.  It has become a divine blessing upon all the trivialities and putterings of finitude and the temporal enjoyment of life.  The lovers summon the clergymen - he blesses them - this is Christianity, in spite of Luke 20:34-35 (which is a suitable text for a wedding).  If the buyer of the six pairs of oxen were to summon a clergyman and pay him ten dollars to bless him and the oxen before he went out to test them, he would be considered an extraordinary, incomparable Christian worthy of adoration.

     Of course it is Protestantism in particular which is total nonsense.

     This is why Protestantism has elevated woman so high, more accurately, to first place.  Everything revolves around woman.  Charming, but then one can also be sure that everything revolves around chatter, trivialities, and in a refined way, around sexual relations.  To some extent woman may be said to have ennobled social life in that we do not fight any more or drink and swear as did the old heroes - but refined lust or a carefully concealed, refined allusion to sexual relations - that is what has ennobled social life - Christianity!!

     This is how some of my pseudonyms have portrayed it and which I now also find Schopenhauer rages against in his own way.  Woman is not to blame, but she is determined to humble man and to make him mediocre.  Existence is also a sovereign and like every sovereign knows very well how to best maintain its regime - specifically by humbling and breaking those over whom they rule.

     A woman is proficient along this line when a man gets involved with her too seriously.  She contributes the first and the most to his humbling.  Generally it can be assumed that every married man is secretly mortified because he feels that he has been made a fool of when all this ravishing talk from the courting days, all this about Julie being the paragon of loveliness and beauty, and getting to possess her is the highest bliss turns out to be - a false alarm.  This is the first knock the husband gets, but this in itself is not insignificant, because it is hard for a man to admit that he has been fooled, that both he and Julie must have been crazy.  The next undermining is that the husband and Julie (who incidentally has had the same experience on her side) agree to keep a stiff upper lip and to hide things from others; they agree to tell the lie that marriage is the true happiness and that they especially are happy.

     When we have settled this, providence knows that this fellow is easy to control, that he is one of those who will make no conquests in the world of ideas.  Constantly lying like this is extremely degrading to the man.  It is different for a woman; she is once and for all a born virtuoso in lying, is really never happy without a little lying, just as it is a priori certain that wherever a woman is there is a little lying.  In a sense she is innocent in this; she cannot help it.  It is not possible to get angry about it: on the contrary, we find it very attractive.  She is in the power of a natural disposition which uses her with extreme cunning to weaken the man.

     Thus in the forward march of history - I mean marriage - there come along with woman all the follies of finitude, this puttering around, and an egotism peculiar to woman.  As wife, as mother - well, here is an egotism of which the man has no intimation.  Society has licensed it under the name of love - good heavens, no, it is the most powerful egotism in which woman most certainly does not love herself foremost but through (egotistically) loving her own she loves herself.  From then on ideas, and every higher infinite striving likewise, whistle in vain for the man - yes, even if our Lord and his angels tried to move him, it would do no good, because the egotism of the mother is such an enormous power that she can hold him fast.

      Woman has a dangerous rapport with finitude in a way quite different from man.  She is, as The Seducer says, a mystification (see "The Banquet"); there is a moment in her life when she deceptively appears to be infinitude itself - and that is when man is captured.  And as a wife she is quite simply - finitude.

  - What the judge in the second part of "Either/Or" says in his way about women is to be expected from a married man who, ethically inspired, champions marriage.

     Woman could be called "the lust for life."  There is undoubtedly lust for life in man, but essentially he is structured to be spirit, and if he were alone, left all alone to himself, he would not know (here the judge is right) how to begin, and he would never really get around to beginning.

     But then "the lust for life," which is within him indefinitely, becomes manifest to him externally in another form, in the form of woman, who is the lust for life: and now the lust for life awakens.

     Likewise, what is said by The Seducer (in "The Banquet") about woman being bait is very true.  And strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless a fact that the very thing which makes the seducer so demonic and makes it hard for any poet to contrive such a character is that in the form of knowledge he has at his disposal the whole Christian ascetic view of woman - except that he employs it in his own way.  He has knowledge in common with the ascetic, the hermit, but they take off from this knowledge in a completely different direction.

  - Woman is personified egotism.  Her fervent, burning devotion to man is neither more nor less than her egotism.

     But His Honor, Man, has no inkling of this; he considers himself very lucky and feels highly flattered to be the object of such fervent devotion, which always takes the form of submission perhaps because woman has a bad conscience about it, wondering if it is not really egotism; man, however, as mentioned, does not see this but feels enhanced by the devotion of this other I.

     Woman herself does not know that it is egotism; she is always a riddle to herself, and by a subtlety of nature the whole mystification of egotism manifesting itself as devotion is concealed from her.  If woman could understand what an enormous egotist she is, she would not be that, for in another sense she is too good to be an egotist.

     This whole business of man and woman is a very intricate plot or a practical joke intended to destroy man qua spirit.

     Man is not originally an egotist; not until he is lucky enough to be united with a woman does he become that, and then completely.  In contrast to a loose-jointed framework egotism, this union, commonly known as marriage, could be called a stone-wall egotism, egotism's proper enterprise.

     Having once entered this company enterprise, egotism really begins to hum - and this is also why there are two, a company, in order to have someone to blame and to share the telling of lies (just as in the practical world it is recommended to have an associate who can be blamed for everything).

     And it follows as a matter of course that once man enters this company he is essentially lost for everything higher.

     This is the reason that Christianity and all more profound views of life take a dim view of the relation to the other sex, for they assume that getting involved with the other sex is the demotion of man.

     And this is precisely why it is said (in the thieves' slang we humans use) that everyone is duty-bound to marry and that marriage is the genuinely ennobling life.

     In this context it is distressing to me that an eminent person like Luther came to such an erroneous position.  He should have understood that his marriage was an exceptional act, a corrective; therefore, as I have pointed out somewhere in my journal, he should rather have taken pains to stress the fact: Although I am a monk, I have married - the woman is not at all the important factor here; what was needed was an awakening, and it would have been just as awakening if it had been an ironing board, which naturally would have had to be kept secret.  This would have been a way of being salt!  But instead Luther became the commander-in-chief of that whole swarm of prolific people or breeders who, inspired by Luther, assume that getting married belongs to true Christianity.

     As far as I am concerned, I will not claim to have understood everything at first as I later came to understand it; if I had not once and for all run aground on the exceptional.  I too would have been married.

     Something very exceptional held me back - and now at long last I see that the exceptional for me is what Christianity would call the universal, the normal, that Christianity insists on the single state and rather makes marriage the exception.

     Here again a Governance has been with me.  But it really had to be done this way, for how could a man born and brought up in this Danish-Protestant eudaemonism have his eyes opened to what is essentially Christian if a Governance, through exceptional collisions, did not help him by always having him first experience formally the essentially Christian, even though he did not perceive this to be Christianity but believed it to be something quite uncommon - and subsequently let him see that it is in fact the essentially Christian, the truly Christian - which, incidentally, has come to be something very uncommon, particularly in Protestantism, particularly in Denmark.

  - Intellectually, in the realm of ideas, thought, etc., woman as compared to man is usually pictured as being something of a little goose.

     But in the realm of what could be called instinctive sagacity, man is a big clod compared to woman.

     In an idle moment as I walked today it occurred to me that if for the sake of curiosity one were to imagine momentarily that the man could bear children - I am convinced that the births would be extremely difficult, and why?  Among other reasons because he would not scream.  He would say to himself: You are a man; it is inappropriate to scream - and would force back the scream.  The woman, on the other hand, screams immediately - and it is well known that this screaming assists the birth.

     There is something of genius about this instinctive sagacity in every woman; with a stroke of genius she takes a radical shortcut, whereas the man, who is weighed down by a thousand reflections, is also weighed down by an occasional but all too pompous idea of his own dignity in being a man.

  - The weaker sex can wail and scream etc.; this is perhaps why the woman suffers much less than the silent, enclosed man.

     In this context one could be tempted to say that woman is the stronger sex, for if it is strength to defend oneself against suffering, then woman defends herself far better than man.

     But the main point is this: it is strength to be able to accept suffering, to be able to enter into suffering, to bear up under it; and it is weakness to ward off suffering by every means possible.  Woman's weakness lies in the very fact that she immediately has entreaties, tears, and sighs at her disposal to ward off suffering; her weakness is simply her propensity to wail and scream and thus mitigate her suffering.  Man's strength is that he has no means of defense, no way to mitigate suffering; therefore his strength - yes, it is a paradox - his strength makes him suffer more than the weaker sex.  It is paradoxical, but no more paradoxical than something equally true, that it takes health to become ill; there are sickly people who lack the health to become ill.

  - When a youth or young man goes astray in his passions, there are two powers alert to save him: a loving woman - and God in heaven.  If he is saved by the former, he will still be finitized.  If, however, he is not saved by woman's love, if he does not find a harbor here - but he is saved nevertheless, consequently by God, then his life becomes meaningful.

  - Woman was taken from the man's side - but Christianly understood, may not man's relation to woman be compared to what is called making a side remark.
     Man was structured for eternity; woman leads him into a side remark.
     In this world man without woman is weaker; he has a weak side which woman protects, and united they have strength for this life.  But Christianly this weakness, the weakness of the solitary, weakness for this life, is a part of being strong for eternity.

  - Basically it is terrible but true, and it expresses the dreadful extent to which it is true - Christianity simply does not exit.

     This is the real  situation in Christendom, especially in Protestantism.

     The men - and that means the miserable weaklings and clods that are called men these days, compared to the Oriental idea of what it is to be a man - men turn away from religion with a certain pride and egotism and say: Religion (Christianity) is something for women and children.

     But the truth of the matter is that Christianity as it is found in the New Testament has such prodigious aims that, strictly speaking, it cannot be a religion for women, at most secondhand, and is impossible for children.

     As a psychologist I maintain that no woman can endure a dialectical redoubling, and everything that is essentially Christian is intrinsically dialectical.

     The essentially Christian task requires a man, it takes a man's toughness and strength simply to be able to bear the pressure of the task.

     A good which is identified by its hurting, a deliverance which is identified by its making me unhappy, a grace which is identified by suffering, etc.  - all this, and everything essentially Christian is like this, no woman can bear, she will lose her mind if she is to be put under the tension of this strenuousness.

     As far as children are concerned, it is sheer nonsense that they are supposed to be Christians.

     A woman and, above all, a child relate to things directly and breathe the air of directness and immediacy.  If something is a good, well then it must be recognizable by its doing good; there is no use in forcing a woman (I will not even mention the child) into a good that hurts - it would break her.

     Just notice why it is that a woman cannot tolerate irony, that as far as her emotions are concerned irony is fatal.  Is this not because she cannot bear the dialectical?

     In this respect I have really taken the comprehensive philosophy examination.  Try it: make a girl unhappy, and then tell her: I did it all out of love for you - and you break her, her mind snaps.  Adapt yourself to her and say: I am a thoughtless scoundrel - that she will be able to bear, and she will heartily forgive you.  But then she also escapes the dialectical redoubling.

     So it is with everything essentially Christian.  Only man has from the hand of Governance the toughness to be able to endure the dialectical.

     Having to endure the dialectical is the most intense agony there is.  A child, the little rascal, is completely safeguarded against it; he can never even get close enough to lose his mind over it, even if you were to pour as much of it into him as you can.  A woman can come so close that she collapses under it, or her mind, in order to get her out of this, slips away - that is, she loses her mind.

     To have to endure the dialectical is the most intense agony possible.  It is also easy to see that far more intense than, for example, becoming unhappy, is the suffering of becoming unhappy and in addition having to take this as one's very happiness - and in every respect.  Thus anyone who comprehends this (if there is such a person), when he thinks of the figure of speech, a dialectical redoubling, and imagines a woman in such a situation, will (just as when one sees the instruments of torture for the martyrs, he involuntarily hears, as it were, a martyr's shriek) involuntarily hear this scream: O, save me, save my sanity!

     What has really happened in Christianity, then, is that this sublimity, which is the essentially Christian position, this sublimity which no man has reached, not even when to be man was an ideal and not even one of those with highest ideality even attempted it or felt its weight without its bringing him to his knees, this sublimity under which (to put it as strongly as possible) even the Savior of the world sinks - that God who is love yet can abandon him and do it out of love - this sublimity Christendom has so flatly and heartily jabbered down into the vulgar gossip which is characteristic of the ordinary human mentality, that this sublimity has even become too light and easy for the kind of creatures dressed up to look like and whom we nowadays call men, and it is turned over to women and children, for whom religion really is intended, after all.

     The New Testament is aimed at the man, religion is related to the man; woman participates in religion at second hand, through the man; she cannot herself endure a dialectic, but by seeing how the man feels the weight of the task she gets an impression of something more than the immediate pure and simple; the child shifts for himself until his time comes.  To want to pour true Christianity into a child (if it were at all possible, for the child's nature makes it impossible to appropriate this) is just as crude as wanting to pour brandy into a child (which happens too often), because the parents themselves drink brandy, and the sweet lassie has to have it as well as her parents.  And in the name of Christianity to want to pour something into the child which is not Christianity is, after all, indefensible.

     But, as stated, Christendom has gotten everything transposed over into the immediate and direct - and therefore, quite right, "the child" has become the measure of what it is to be Christian!  Christendom does not seem to be at all aware that all this about "the child" has raised an ironic problem, a question which has been kindly answered, the problem of what shall we do with the child, can the child become a Christian - a question to which the New Testament gives no answer since it assumed that the Christian does not get married.

     Have a third-party relationship to a child, and you will see that everything is just as the New Testament presents it.  But then the nice Christians hit upon the very thing Christianity put a stop to, even wanting to start all over afresh - so children got another significance.   And thus, quite logically, by means of the child Christianity was turned upside-down, became exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament, got to be sugar candy for children, even to the point that the kind of men we have nowadays were right in turning away from it and regarding it as something that was only for women and children, something which disgusts a man just like gossip, chit-chat, and the temperature in the nursery.

     No, let it become again what it once was, let it bring the man to his knees to pick up and carry the task, let woman shudder to see how heavy it is.  And the child?  Yes, let it become as it once was, let us be free from this child-begetting by Christians: then it is possible that Christianity may be seen again.  Otherwise it is impossible, and I for my part cannot see how it is possible that anyone with an impression of Christ's life and what the evangelists understood it was to be Christian and with an idea of Christ's demand for discipleship and imitation can think of getting married.

  - To say that Christianity makes man and woman equal, and therefore the woman must relate to Christianity the same way as man, is baseless talk.  Christianity does indeed make man and woman equal, but it still does not change their natural qualifications; otherwise by the same logic one could conclude that Christianity must cause women to grow just as tall and muscular as men, or even (if Christianity normally had this result) have the effect of making the business of childbirth in Christendom so confusing and indescriminating that sometimes it would be the woman, sometimes the man, who bore the child.

     To say that women relate to Christianity even more essentially than men is a fraudulent trick to get Christianity redrafted in terms of the immediate and direct.  No, on the scale of the immediate and direct women certainly have the advantage both in delicacy and depth and inwardness, but as soon as there is a dialectic, women are in the same situation as people in the southern countries when they have to pronounce a Slavic word with five or six consonants before a vowel.