Ah! So much is spoken about human need and misery; I try to understand it, have been closely acquainted with not a little of it. So much is spoken about wasting one's life. But the only life wasted is the life of one who so lived it, deceived by life's pleasures or its sorrows, that he never became decisively, eternally, conscious of himself as spirit, as self, or, what is the same, he never became aware – and gained in the deepest sense the impression – that there is a God there and that 'he', himself, his self, exists before this God, which infinite gain is never come by except through despair. Alas! also this misery that one occupies oneself, or, in one's relation to the mass of mankind, occupies them, with everything else, and uses them to provide the living energy for the play on life's stage, yet never reminds them of this blessedness; this misery that one heaps them together and defrauds them instead of separating them all from one another so that each individual may gain the highest, the only thing worth living for, and enough to live in for an eternity. Methinks I could weep for an eternity for the fact that this misery exists! Ah! and here to my mind we have one expression more of the horror of this most dreadful of all sicknesses and misery, namely its hiddenness. Not just that someone suffering from it can wish to hide it, and may be able to do so, not just that it can live in a person in such a way that no one, no one at all, discovers it. No, but that it can be so concealed in a person that he himself is not aware of it! Ah!– whether you are man or woman, rich or poor, dependent or free, happy or unhappy; whether you bore in your elevation the splendour of the crown or in humble obscurity only the toil and heat of the day; whether your name will be remembered for as long as the world lasts, and so will have been remembered as long as it lasted, or you are without a name and run namelessly with the numberless multitude; whether the glory that surrounded you surpassed all human description, or the severest and most ignominious human judgment was passed on you – eternity asks you, and every one of these millions of millions, just one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not, whether so in despair that you did not know that you were in despair, or in such a way that you bore this sickness concealed deep inside you as your gnawing secret, under your heart like the fruit of a sinful love, or in such a way that, a terror to others, your raged in despair. If then, if you have lived in despair, then whatever else you won or lost, for you everything is lost, eternity does not acknowledge you, it never knew you, or, still more dreadful, it knows you as you are known, it manacles you to your self in despair!
- Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)