You walk down the street, one house looks like each other, and only the experienced observer suspects that in that house, at midnight, everything looks quite different: an unhappy person wanders about, unable to rest; he climbs the stairs, his steps echo in the stillness of the night. We pass one another in the street, the one person looks like the other, and the other just like anyone else, and only the experienced observer suspects that, in that head, there lives a lodger who has nothing to do with the world, but lives out his lonely life confined to quiet domesticity. So the outer is the object of our observation, but not of our interest. Thus the fisherman sits and directs his attention unwaveringly on the float, yet the float does not interest him at all, only the movements down on the sea-bed. So the outer does indeed have significance for us, yet not as an expression of the inner but like a telegram telling of something hidden deep within.
Kierkegaard, Søren. ‘Shadowgraphs’ in Either/Or. London: Penguin, 2004/1843. 173
Further, it is said that the woman shall obey the man. Here you may say, ‘Yes that’s fine, and it has always appealed to me to see a woman who, in her husband, loves her master.’ But you find it shocking that it should be a consequence of sin, and you feel called upon to act as the woman’s knight. Whether you do her a service thereby I leave undecided, but I believe you have not grasped to the full the inner nature of woman, to which also belongs the fact that she is at once more perfect and more imperfect than the man. If you want to say what is purest and most perfect, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to say what is weakest, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to illustrate spiritual ascendancy over the sensual, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to illustrate the sensual, you say ‘a woman’; if you want to say what innocence is in all its inspiring greatness, you say ‘a woman’; when you want to say what the dispiriting feeling of guilt is, you say ‘a woman’. So the woman is in a certain sense more perfect than the man, and the Scriptures express this by saying she is more guilty. If you now recall that the Church only proclaims the lot of woman in general, then I do not see how there can be anything in this to cause first love disquiet, but only for the reflecting thought that does not know how to keep hold of her with this possibility in mind. Besides, the Church does not make the woman a mere slave, it says, ‘And God said, I will make for Adam a helpmeet for him’, an expression possessing as much aesthetic warmth as it has truth. Therefore the Church teaches that, ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife’. One would almost have expected it to say, ‘The woman shall leave her father and her mother and cleave unto her husband’, for the woman is after all the weaker. In the Scriptures’ expression there lies an acknowledgement of the woman’s importance, and no knight could be more gallant towards her.
Kierkegaard, Søren (2004/1843) ‘The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage’ in Either/Or. London: Penguin Classics. 430-31
Just because one does not become involved in marriage, one’s life need not for that reason be devoid of the erotic. The erotic, too, ought to have infinity – but a poetic infinity that can just as well be limited to one hour as to a month. When two people fall in love with each other and sense that they are destined for each other, it is a question of having the courage to break it off, for by continuing there is only everything to lose, nothing to gain. It seems to be a paradox, and indeed it is, for the feelings, not for the understanding. In this domain it is primarily a matter of being able to use moods; if a person can do that, an inexhaustible variation of combinations can be achieved.
Arbitrariness is the whole secret. It is popularly believed that there is no art to being arbitrary, and yet it takes profound study to be arbitrary in such a way that a person does not himself run wild in it but himself has pleasure from it. One does not enjoy the immediate object but something else that one arbitrarily introduces. One sees the middle of a play; one reads the third section of a book. One thereby has enjoyment quite different from what the author so kindly intended. One enjoys something totally accidental; one considers the whole of existence from this standpoint; one lets its reality run aground on this. I shall give an example. There was a man whose chatter I was obliged to listen to because of the circumstances. On every occasion, he was ready with a little philosophical lecture that was extremely boring. On the verge of despair, I suddenly discovered that the man perspired exceptionally much when he spoke. This perspiration now absorbed my attention. I watched how the pearls of perspiration collected on his forehand, then united in a rivulet, slid down his nose. From that moment on, everything was changed; I could even have the delight of encouraging him to commence his philosophical instruction just in order to watch the perspiration on his brow and on his nose.
Kierkegaard, Soren (1959) ‘The Rotation of Crops. A Venture in a Theory of Social Prudence’ in Either/Or. Princeton, NJ – USA: Princeton University Press. Originally published in 1843.