September 19, 2014

The Man Who Walked Backwards

from  The Parables of Kierkegaard
edited by Thomas Oden

Why do inconsistent behaviors so often accompany exorbitant professions of good intentions?

When a man turns his back upon someone and walks away, it is so easy to see that he walks away, but when a man hits upon a method of turning his face towards the one he is walking away from, hits upon a method of walking backwards while with appearance and glance and salutations he greets the person, giving assurances again and again that he is coming immediately, or incessantly saying, "Here I am" - although he gets farther and farther away by walking backwards - then it is not so easy to become aware. And so it is with the one who, rich in good intentions and quick to promise, retreats backwards farther and farther from the good. With the help of intentions and promises he maintains an orientation towards the good, he is turned towards the good, and with this orientation towards the good he moves backwards farther and farther away from it. With ever renewed intention and promise it seems as if he takes a step forward, and yet he not only remains standing still but really takes a step backward. The intention taken in vain, the unfulfilled promise leaves a residue of despondency, dejection, which perhaps soon again leave behind only greater languor. As a drunkard constantly requires stronger and stronger stimulation - in order to become intoxicated, likewise the one who has fallen into intentions and promises constantly requires more and more stimulation - in order to walk backward.