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Today's quote:

Monday, February 8, 2021

"Livet må forstås baglæns, men må leves forlæns."

 

Give me any beautiful and profound quote in French or Latin, even in gutteral German, and I happily requote it in its original, because translating it into English would take too much away from its original beauty and profundity.

Not so with "Livet må forstås baglæns, men må leves forlæns", and not only because Danish - which sounds a bit like German on steroids - is spoken by a mere six million people but because "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards" sounds so much better. As for its profundity, we can all relate to it, even though none of us has Søren Kierkegaard's linguistic facility to express it so elegantly.

What this beautifully poetic summation boils down to is this: that in those moments when you pause to reflect on what your life has been like, you may feel that you understand your life, but your understanding is only temporary, because life is a forward motion in which you must always take new actions and make new choices, which will have changed your understanding by the time you reflect on life again. In other words, there is no such thing as having a perfect understanding of your life prior to living your life.

So why bother to try and understand it at all? As Kierkegaard wrote, "Marry, and you will regret it; don't marry, you will also regret it; marry or don't marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world's foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world's foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it ... Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don't hang yourself, you'll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy."

That's probably a good summary of my own three-quarters of a century full of hyperactive living which I wished I could have come up with by myself - if I had Kiekegaard's linguistic facility to express it so elegantly.

Now it is time to pour myself a large glass of Oyster Bay Chardonnay, while you no doubt start googling to read up on Kierkegaard. Not that it matters all that much: do it or do not do it — we will regret both. 😀


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