seth cohen and repentance

He sat down with his girlfriend who was making him watch an episode of The O.C. He despised those sort of teenage soaps but he was trying to work things out with his girlfriend; the way he saw it, this was just another opportunity to spend some time together.

Halfway through the show one of the main characters (Seth Cohen) made reference to the godfather of existentialism. This young man had always had a soft spot for this Seth character but he had never heard of existentialism and so after the show was over he tried remembering the name of the writer; Kierkrarrard or something.

The next day, still a bit bewildered, he went to the local bookstore, grabbed a coffee and began searching for some literature on existentialism. In the midst of his search he found the author: Søren Kierkegaard. There were many books by him but he grabbed the one that stuck out to him: Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. He found a seat, put his coffee down and began to read.

He didn’t have any sort of psychology or philosophy background and he certainly wasn’t religious. He attended a few church services and his father made sure they prayed before Christmas and Easter dinner, mainly out of respect for his grandparents who sat at the dinner table and who were very traditional. As he read the book, however, he found it difficult. He had a high aptitude and understood the logic of the arguments, but unlike anything he had ever read, it was difficult because it was deeply subjective and deeply challenging.

Unlike many of the books he had read that allowed him to think about Other people and how screwed up their lives are and how messed up the political system is and how corrupt major corporations are, this book put him in a small room, with barely enough air to breathe and he was left there, alone, struggling with himself: time stood still.

As he read, his face was in a constant squint and his coffee slowly cooled.

Words kept coming up like repentance and confession and egocentric and commitment and loyalty and suffering and eternal.

What really resonated with him was Kierkegaard’s use of “commitment”. He read how the individual that makes a commitment enters into something and leaves something else. He/she enters into a relationship that is based on faith and doubt. The individual must devout him/herself to ONE thing and have faith that that the ONE thing is worth giving up the many things which are tempting, yet contradictory. Likewise, with faith comes doubt since the rational part of the individual is constantly saying, “Yah but what about this” and “What about that?”

Like a relationship with God or with an individual the individual lives in the tension of this doubt and remains faithful, continuing to devout him/herself to ONE thing and thus saying NO to everything else that comes in opposition with his/her ability to live by this ONE thing.

He reached down for his coffee and took a sip, unaware that it was cold and tasteless.

This young man knew what this ONE thing was. His parents had instilled a set of values in him that included loving his family and friends, being respectful of authority and helping those in need. It were these values that were subjectively true for this individual and often he avoided the difficulty of sticking to them. He looked into his own heart and realized that he often swayed from this ONE thing; hurting himself and many other people in the process.

He realized that his commitment was lacking.

He realized that his devotion was lacking.

Sitting there in that book store he confessed and repented for his cleverness to avoid the ONE thing. He willingly turned from his life of maneuvers and made a commitment with himself to 1) live in the tension of faith and doubt and 2) to embrace that which transcends all those things that are finite.

Some people call it the conscience, or values, or mores, or the Good, or religious beliefs; call it what you will! It is the ONE thing that you live by. The ONE thing that you believe transcends all the finite and trivial things which you have been using to define your life by.

When he finished reading, he went over to his girlfriends house and kissed her on the lips. After all, a confession is always followed by change…

Categories: Existential Ideas


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