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In his journal Kierkegaard wrote:

I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth's orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.

I understood that he has this dilemma in life, in which he can't live consistently. Probably, his existential experience is preventing him from living in peace.

But I am not sure about those implications. Any other possible meanings?

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    Wikipedia claims this is from March 1836 (en.wikiquote.org/wiki/…). I don't know anything about the context of this quote, but it predates all of his published works. – virmaior Aug 27 '16 at 15:18
  • Kierkegaard's journal contains his private notes, if I understand. It was not meant for anybody else's eyes. So why would there be any "message" there? – Ram Tobolski Aug 27 '16 at 20:43
  • @RamTobolski well, in other words, what was he trying to speak out ? – HaneenSu Aug 28 '16 at 7:34
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    @HaneenSu Well, apparently, just that he was (1) deeply depressed, and (2) able to hide it well in company. – Ram Tobolski Aug 28 '16 at 11:08
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    Oscar Wilde observed in De Profundis, which he wrote in Reading Gaol, that "shallowness is the supreme vice"; it seems as though K is making a similar observation. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 31 '16 at 21:48
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As the comments indicate, this diary entry was private, and not meant to convey any message, except perhaps a reminder to its author. It is however characteristic of some central themes in Kierkegaard's philosophy (and life). Namely, coming face to face with your own existence, and its meaning or meaninglessness, through crisis and the contemplation of death.

One of the two main characters of Kierkegaard's first published work Either/Or (1843), Johannes the Seducer, also keeps a diary which might very well have contained something like the 1836 entry. In the work the "message" is the progression from hedonistic stage of life, leading through the crisis of meaninglessness and suicidal depressions to a more mature ethical stage. This said, one should be very careful with identifying Kierkegaard's views with any of his characters' and pseudonymous "authors", who often express incompatible and paradoxical views.

Here is from Watkin's commentary on Johannes the Seducer in Kierkegaard’s View of Death:

"After the party comes the hangover and the dawn of daily life, while the aesthete knows that his recollections are not really immortal but will perish with him. Kierkegaard’s young aesthete therefore lives in a state of suicidal depression punctuated by occasional frantic bursts of pleasure. Because he has become reflective enough to consider the question of the meaning of existence in the light of the fact of death his conclusion that it is meaningless has split him between wanting to live and die at the same time. It is encouraging however, that the young man has reached ‘the final aesthetic life view’ of conscious despair. Those who amble on unreflectively or blaming discontent on external factors are further away from truth than those who face up to their unhappiness and reflect about the meaning of existence."

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I read this as a comment on what Sartre would later describe as bad faith. Kierkegaard is seemingly having a wonderful time at the party, but he is like an actor playing a role. He is untrue to his real self. The essential emptiness of the experience leads him to a place of despair. The fact that no one seemed to notice the deception just makes it worse --his friends apparently prefer the fake Kierkegaard to the real one.

Compare this recent music video for a dramatization of a similar situation.

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I agree: no message here. No earth-shaking reflection. I think the man wallowed in the attention he received at the party and was displeased with himself for it afterward. Roughly parallel to the mini-depression a man might experience after a romantic interlude.

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IIRC, somewhere in "Soren Kierkegaard's Christian Psychology" by C. Stephen Evans is an injunction not to be who you are and not to be who you are not (i.e., not being typecast or in a rut and not growing; but, not imitating someone else or even some other group). The existentialist demand to be courageous and unique may be overwhelming. Was it Abraham's faith or his courage that was important? Sartre's existential responsibility might be very demanding too, especially in good faith. How was Socratic irony as discussed in "The Concept of Irony" with respect of Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes relevant? How was Soren's use of personae relevant? Constantly negotiating role confusion. Erikson was perhaps another Dane concerned with identity. Hamlet Syndrome?

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As a reference here is the quote again with my emphasis:

I have just now come from a party where I was its life and soul; witticisms streamed from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me, but I went away — yes, the dash should be as long as the radius of the earth's orbit ——————————— and wanted to shoot myself.

Although Kierkegaard's experiences appeared to be positive they were also powerful and because of that perhaps traumatic. Such trauma may have suggested to him the thought of suicide to relieve it. He may have recorded the experience in his personal journal to remind him of this unexpected suggestion that came to his mind.

If that is the case, looking at trauma in more detail may reveal situations where it could occur even after what may be viewed by others as positive experiences. Here is a descriptions from Wikipedia on the symptoms:

After a traumatic experience, a person may re-experience the trauma mentally and physically, hence trauma reminders, also called triggers, can be uncomfortable and even painful. Re-experiencing can damage people's sense of safety, self, self-efficacy, as well as their ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships. They may turn to psychoactive substances including alcohol to try to escape or dampen the feelings.

The thought of suicide may have been a suggestion coming to Kierkegaard's mind on how he might "dampen the feelings" to relieve the trauma.


Wikipedia contributors. (2019, September 9). Psychological trauma. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:17, September 11, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Psychological_trauma&oldid=914716865

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