I have this idea that all of life is about interpretation. No matter what the situation, you decide (decide is not the right word, but it is the first word that comes to mind)– or maybe society or culture conditions you– how you are going to interpret that situation. This is seen all the time. When some people have a break up, they can get over it quickly and move on to someone else while others brood and cry about the break up.

All situations are seen like this. This is what all those new age writers and all this positive thinking, imagine-your-goal-and-you’ll-achieve-it crap is all about, which to an extent, I guess, is true (not the you can will what you want “the secret” crap, but the stuff about you decide how to react (interpret) any situation in life.

It seems this goes back to Kierkegaard a great deal. I see his influence in Heidegger’s they-self, in Sartre’s anxiety, in Camus’s interpretation of Sisyphus. Looking at the post in which Cornell West talks about philosophy as a preparation for death, meditations on death, on living a life which will make us not fear death– this is all seen in Kierkegaard, except K was much to melancholic. K believes that the freedom to chose gives us a feeling of dread because we always know that this choice can have far reaching effects.

For K, it is our responsibility to break out of the crowd by making our own choices and not letting the crowd tell us what to do. If we let others decide for us, if we follow the crowd, then there is always an excuse when things go wrong. To go back to that awful “secret” crap– if things go wrong, it is because you didn’t desire, or positively think about the thing you wanted enough– there is always a scapegoat with these systems, which is why K hated all systems. This idea of one having to make one’s own choices, choices which once made mean people, including yourself, can get hurt, your life can be ruined, other’s lives can be ruined, is an overwhelming responsibility, which is why this leads to dread.

I think Palahniuk really captures that feeling, even taking some of his quotes out of context (the quotes are in context though, within this discussion):

“People don’t want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.”

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.”

“You must realize that one day you will die. Until then you are worthless.”

“Reality means you live until you die. The real truth is nobody wants reality”

“More and more, it feels like I’m doing a really bad impersonation of myself.”

Ok, I need to get back to reading…

ohhh… but before I forget– this is Dread and Happiness…

Why doesn’t K, after being haunted by his father and his religious culture not see that he is free to decide his life? Sure, he made a mistake that ruined some poor girl (for a little while) and ruined his own life since he forever pined after her, but he does realize that there is no system out there controlling him and telling him what to do. This is why I think that all of life is interpretation. It seems to be that being freed of such a constraining life would be a happy moment, but K was always shadowed by Dread, but I choosing can be a good thing, I think even if there are all those possible bad outcomes.