Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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February 23, 2008
more abysswork

So here ye comes now to TiR's attention a new recommendation about what to do when standing at the edge of an abyss.

Adorno provides the set-up, in "The Aging of the New Music," his 1955 essay about how the creative anxiety of the Schoenbergian moment drained away into a music scene of simplistic comfort:

More than a hundred years ago, Kierkegaard, speaking as a theologian, said that where once a dreadful abyss yawned a railroad bridge now stretches, from which the passengers can look comfortably down into the depths. The situation of music is no different.

The essay is included in Essays on Music. The passage is mentioned by Said in his On Late Style.

Unfortunately, Adorno and Said failed to tell us where on earth Kierkegaard wrote such a thing.

Why "unfortunately"? Unfortunate for whom?

Unfortunate, we guess, for anyone who thinks that Kierkegaard's jokes (and he was a very funny guy) are always richer and more multi-faceted in context, for those who like to go back and look at them. To trace references to SK's quips back to his original almost always proves to be worth the hunt. The present instance is no different.

So, we hunted and found what we theorize to be the passage that Adorno had in mind:

While one is making the journey easily by railway, one reads in the guidebook, "Here is Woolf's Gullet where one plunges 70,000 fathoms down under the earth"; while one sits and smokes one's cigar in the snug café, one reads in the guidebook, "Here it is a band of robbers has its stronghold, from which it issues to assault the travelers and maltreat them"; here it is, etc.

Here it is; that is, here it
was ; for now (it is very amusing to imagine how it was), now there is no Woolf's Gullet but the railway, and no robber band, but a snug café.

The foregoing is from Lowrie's translation of Attack Upon "Christendom," from the chapter that contains "The Instant," No. 2.

In other words, asked SK:

What to do when one stands at the edge of an abyss?

Answer: Build a railway bridge across it!

Then sell people tickets to cross as passive, comfy passengers.

Then sell the passengers a Guidebook to the Abyss to read along the way.

We recall that Kierkegaard was a guy who literally "wrote the book"
                                                                                                    [well, wrote a book]
on irony.

We believe that our mercenary age's idiom would call his suggestion an example of how to take the problem of existential dread and "monetize" it.

Wait, did we say "problem"?

We meant "probortunity"!!!zomg!!!!