“The despairer thinks that he himself is this evidence (of his own despair). And it is this that he wants to be; this is the reason he wants to be himself, to be himself in his agony, so as to protest with this agony against all existence. As the weak despairer will hear nothing about what comfort eternity has in store for him, so too for this despairer, but for a different reason: the comfort would be his undoing – as an objection to the whole of his existence. It is, to describe it figuratively, as if the writer were to make a slip of the pen, and the error became conscious of itself as such – perhaps it wasn’t a mistake but from a much higher point of view an essential ingredient in the whole presentation – and as if the error wanted now to rebel against its author, out of hatred for him forbid him to correct it, and in manic defiance say to him: ‘No, I will not be erased, I will stand as a witness against you, a witness to the fact you are a second-rate author.'”
In the letters of Paul we read of spiritual warfare. Such a phrase has been the symbolic basis for The Crusades – that those who are ‘the good’ should ‘banish evil’ in a physical warfare; and it has been the basis of the Pietist movement – that we must banish the moral evil within ourselves. Here Kierkegaard frames spiritual warfare existentially. It is at the heart of our very existence. The Christian, for him, is the opposite of Dylan Thomas who ‘rages’ against the night. The Christian receives the hope that is in Christ. Receives it humbly. Accepts in faith that Love exists because it is existentially extant.
And it is an antidote to despair.
And, quite strangely but astutely, Kierkegaard notes how we are adept at holding onto our own despair. That we grip it quite firmly almost as an anger against the God who would allow such things to exist in our hearts.
Herein may be a window of understanding of what it is to ‘convert’, to fall, like Saul on the road to Damascus and ‘have hope’. To not cling to pain. To have faith.