Repetition Søren Kierkegaard

Repetition is a Category of Apocalypse

Human experience is a series of starts and stops. To be human is to navigate the reality of time and space, to deal with ourselves in motion. There are psychological states which help or harm our ability to be in motion, and these states are often dependent on the interplay between our own personal resolve and external contingencies. When we are confronted by overwhelming events we find ourselves impeded, finding it inconceivable that we would be able to move forward in life. These events include feelings of seemingly insurmountable guilt (unforgivable sins), severe suffering and trauma, and feelings of speculative detachment. Such events might be characterized as personal apocalypses, the point at which one’s life appears to come to an end.

Repetition is a category of apocalypse. It can only be understood at the cliff of the end, when all movement has come to a painful, grinding halt. The individual suffers—life loses all meaning in the face of suffering, normal tasks are relativized into oblivion, consumed by the blast of an existential explosive. At the site of the impact, when all that surrounds is fallout and debris, the individual is nonetheless still living, if only barely. Suddenly, it occurs that life is still happening, that others have walked right by the impact unphased; they are watching films, eating dinner, playing with their pets. And at this painful observation, that suffering is always horrifically individual and isolationist, the individual either seeks to find life once again or sinks refuge in the shattered remnants and debris that irreducibly belong to the individual alone in recollection and memory.

Repetition is the affirmation of life after death, the resurrection. The apocalypse is indeed an end; but it is the beginning of a newness. For this reason, St. John ends his apocalypse with the words of Christ: “Behold, I make all things new.” And he said unto me, “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” Perhaps now more than ever, in an era of disillusionment and distrust, repetition can become for us a site of true renewal and redemption. Standing at the center of the crater, repetition is the gift of believing there is a way to climb out–and into life.

3 replies on “Repetition is a Category of Apocalypse”

What if repetition is more gift than effort? Then everything you so beautifully lay before us holds. But we’d need to change the last of the last sentence. Yes, “repetition is the gift of believing there is a way”, but it’s a way “to be lifted out–and into life.” Sure, one may climb; but one has new legs, and it feels less like climbing than being lifted, rising from the dead.

You’re certainly right on that point. Repetition is dialectically oriented between will and gift, immanence and transcendence, though its primacy is clearly on the aspect of the gift. The relationship is surely asymmetrical.

I think the reason I opt to magnify the action of the subject is because the gift is a gift that enables the subject. The gift of repetition does indeed lift one out of one’s consciousness; on that point, I think you’re edit is appropriate. To be lifted out of consciousness is done precisely in order to have the subject re-engage the world in its gift-conscious will. You identify this in your observation that one’s climbing is done with new legs and new feeling. But therein lies the dialectical tension of discussing the issue–one must hold the two movements together, the gift and the will.

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