All the tortures, all these cruel inventions and cruel ways of martyring oneself, are summed up in a single phrase, “the next day.”Søren Kierkegaard, The Anxieties We Invent Ourselves (George Pattison, translator)
Kierkegaard has a reputation as being depressing, but people often forget his writings on Christian faith, which are inspiring. I wholeheartedly endorse reading his entire essay The Anxieties We Invent Ourselves, especially the very fine version in the book by George Patterson. The main point to this essay is that Christians live in the moment and non-Christians, by always living for tomorrow, create their own hell.
(Non-believers) almost entirely forget about the present day, because they are so anxiously preoccupied with the next day, while the believer is someone who has “presence,” someone who, as the Latin implies, also has power. Those who bring troubles on themselves, however, are never present and are powerless.Søren Kierkegaard, The Anxieties We Invent Ourselves (George Pattison, translator)
Recalling Jesus’ references to birds not reaping or sowing and yet still be cared for by God, Kierkegaard reminds us that anxiety comes from living for “the next day.”
The bird has no anxiety about the next day, but anxiety about the next day is precisely a trouble you yourself have invented, which is why the bird is without this kind of anxiety. And what exactly is this trouble you yourself invent? It is a trouble that “this very day”, today, … doesn’t have. And what is it to invent troubles for yourself? It is to be the cause of your own troubles.Søren Kierkegaard, The Anxieties We Invent Ourselves (George Pattison, translator)
He also points out that it is not, as many believe, the obscurity of the future that causes our preoccupation with it, but the very fact that we are able to envision it. As hard as it is for us to “take no thought for the morrow,” imagine what it would be like to know (like Jesus) exactly when, where and how you would die. Most people would crumble under the pressure of that knowledge. It is a testament to Jesus’ connection to God that he was able to function at all.
Of course, living for the day doesn’t mean shirking your responsibilities; being an adult means attending daily to what must be done. But, we must avoid skimming past our present in a never-ending quest for the future. For a vivid rendering of the perils of living for the future, watch the movie Click; be warned, however — it is not the light-hearted movie that it was advertised as, nor what you might expect from an Adam Sandler movie.
To live is to be today. (Søren Kierkegaard)
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seagull.jpg Attribution: Arne Groh [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]