In Is the Only Way Out
Reflections by philosopher Finn Janning
”The darkest hour is just before dawn” is a saying that is often connected to Winston Churchill. It is about having the courage to move forward through the storm. It is a saying that gets you going when it is really tough.
Life is often like stormy weather, sometimes just windy, sometimes a terrific hurricane. Nevertheless, you have to live it, not ignore it. It is in the darkest hour just before dawn that we often feel something is moving within ourselves. A stormy period in our lives can be painful experiences like being abandoned, wasting opportunities, illness or death. In these periods one can do nothing but confront the pain by walking into the centre of the suffering, stare it in the eyes and accept it. In so doing we experience what life is about.
To walk in and get out on the other side confirms that sometimes you have to look inside yourself in order to be able to help others. Sometimes you also have to devote yourself to a bigger cause like God, a society, a project or a life practice in order to get in touch with your inner self. It can be difficult to understand yourself and others; however, a constant interaction between looking into yourself and looking outside yourself is the way forward.
In his books about existentialism, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard discussed the ability to account for one’s own life. In other words, we have deserved our thoughts and feelings because we live the way we do. To Kierkegaard it is about how you approach life which can be emphatic and compassionate, but also cynical and evil. According to Kierkegaard we can choose ourselves. Choose one approach instead of the other.
The Spanish author Agusting Fernández Mallo writes in his book Trilogia de la guerra about memories and re-use. Must everything be recycled? he asks. If everything must be recycled, then there are no longer differences. Time disappears. And when time disappears, life vanishes. Therefore, to go in in order to go out on the other side is also about going into history and culture. We can all thank culture for where we are today – good and evil. We owe our ancestors. We are formed by the way they lived their lives. Their scrap should necessarily not to be recycled, but serves the purpose of bringing clarity in our time as the waste it might have been.
On this note, Kierkegaard said that the challenge is to stay in debt to the past. Remember the past with gratitude. Both the good and the bad deeds. Human history is full of wars caused by egocentric nationalism, despotism and greed, but life before us was also full of love. Most of us are alive because someone kept us warm, gave us food, a warm blanket and a kiss when we needed it.
Going into the wealth of history and culture is like going into the greatest love affair. Imagine the same feeling when we look deep into ourselves? Maybe there is a love affair rooted within us just waiting to flourish and being shared with others. Maybe time has come for all of us to find our love resources if we cannot wait patiently for the dawn. Time calls for our love response, not for recycling.