Repetition

For Kierkegaard, repetition, in contrast to (the Platonic) remembrance, a forward drive. It awaits a certain fresh recurrence of the wondrous beginning. It is an anticipation of pure faith, incomprehensible but necessary. (Reminding one of K’s more famous lines, “life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forward.”)

Repetition is, in some sense, greater than remembrance because what is remembered is always-already lost, tainted, flawed. Only by an act of grace, so to speak, can that moment of beginning be re-intuited. The best way to regain “lost time” is to beat on, boat against the current, towards the future. Repetition occurs in the minimal space of a forgetting that I have been and the ensuing surprise of remembering, the memoire involontaire. As Valerie said, “To perceive anything is to be caught by surprise.”

Why is this repetition important? Because Kierkegaard is providing a vision of life anchored in the future rather than in the past, against a metaphysics of memory and explanation. Often enough, we live in the present as if it was already a memory, to be savored in the future and devoured by time. (Reminding one of the famous example of a movie, whose title I have forgotten, depicting an impossible love between a married woman and a married man, who decided to spend a week of passion together, and to never see each other again—there is a life of true remembrance, a present that is already in the past.) One needs to imagine, in contrast to that, an existence of the future, of a future that, though predictable, always contains the sudden struck of lighting (the Event) that seemingly repeats.

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