October 04, 2005

The Lily of the Field, The Bird of the Air: Three Devotional Discourses

D.ANTHONY STORM's commentary on Sören Kierkegaard
The Lily of the Field, The Bird of the Air was published on the same day as the second edition of Either/Or. Kierkegaard was hesitant to publish an esthetic work when he was in the midst of exclusively writing religious works. But as he needed the income, he thought it best to publish these religious works to accompany them. Like the three discourses that were published under the title Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions, which accompanied Stages On Life's Way, these three discourses seem to coincide with Kierkegaard's three stages of life—also known as spheres of existence. The first discourse is in part on silence as communication, and specifically how the birds and lilies speak and are comprehended as opposed to how the poet speaks and is comprehended. The poet would naturally represent the esthetic stage. The second discourse is on obedience, which of course epitomizes the ethical stage. The last discourse is on joy, which is a transcendant quality—or, perhaps better put, a transcendant experience—and thus would suggest the religious sphere.

The three discourses take for their text the Gospel of Matthew. From the beginning of the first discourse Kierkegaard is anxious to convey to his reader that he is not writing of the beauties of nature from the standpoint of the poet, but as a religious writer. He considered his pseudonymous philosophical authorship to have been that of a poet. And the poet says, "I cannot understand the Gospel; between us there is a difference of language which would kill me if I could understand it".
Kierkegaard dismisses any poetizing of the birds and lilies. Their function is to teach man. They teach us by their silence, that we are to be silent before God as well. From this silence we learn reverence, and are invited to fulfill the Scripture, "Seek ye first God's kingdom and his righteousness". In this realization the individual finds himself alone before God. One of Kierkegaard's main categories of is that of the individual as opposed to the "numeric masses". In this work especially, it is the individual alone before God.
The lilies and the birds obey God naturally. They do exactly what they were created to do without wavering. Since we have volition and intelligence—not to mention a divided and corrupt nature—we need to learn obedience. The lilies and birds are thus teachers of obedience by example. "In nature all is obedience, unconditional obedience" .

No comments:

Post a Comment