Some months ago I picked up an interesting philosophy book. It was an illustrated introduction to the works of the Danish existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Yes, GRAPHIC KIERKEGAARD is a thing. I’m actually reasonably familiar with him and didn’t require an ‘introduction’ to his work – lot of which I’m actually fairly blasé about anyway – but there’s something quirky about graphic versions of great works – so, like the manga version of James Joyce’s Ulysses I own, resplendent with artistic interpretations of masturbating at da beach – I purchased it. I returned to this recently and there was a section in particular which really hit me. Kierkegaard wrote a lot about seduction, and one of his more famous works relates to the amoral seducer Don Giovanni who slept with thousands of women. In this, Kierkegaard talks about ‘faith.’ What the fuck has faith got to do with sleeping with thousands of women, you ask? Well, this is the part that got me. Kierkegaard had a fiancé called Regine Olsen. His relationship with her exerted an almost disproportionate influence over his work, his growth as a person, his theology and his legacy. As a result, his legacy is intertwined with his relationship with Regine Olsen. What does this have to do with Don Giovanni? Sleeping with thousands of women? Faith etc? The part that really hit me and the connection with Don Giovanni, is that Kierkegaard was terrified that if he let Regine Olsen ‘in,’ if she truly got to know him and his proverbial ‘dark side,’ she wouldn’t love him anymore. That is where ‘faith’ comes in. Somewhere along the line you have to say, ‘Even though I’m afraid this person is going to hurt me, could reject me, I’m going to take a leap of faith and love this person.’ Kierkegaard couldn’t do that. His relationship with his fiancé Regine Olsen is one of histories great failed romances. The connection with Don Giovanni? Don Giovanni slept with thousands of women because he was afraid he wouldn’t be loved by one. On a personal level, this is something I relate to.
I was thinking about this this morning after reading about the leannán sídhe for something I’m working on. In Irish mythology, A leannán sídhe is a beautiful faery sweetheart who will lure you against your will to your death, or, to ‘Tír na nÓg,’ which is a supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy. In modern culture, A leannán sídhe is generally depicted as a “muse” who offers inspiration to an artist in return they receive love and devotion. This generally results in madness and premature death for the artist, however they remain youthfully immortalised through their work, so it’s a beautiful metaphor.
The story of Tír na nÓg tells the story of Oísin who is a member of the Fianna. A group of warriors who love and defend Ireland. He is lured away by Niamh, she has golden hair and is one of the faery people, but he swears to return to Ireland soon. Although Oísin believes he has only been gone a matter of weeks, when he returns to Ireland, he finds aeons have passed and setting foot back on Irish ground breaks the enchantment. Oísin must however return because it is not Niamh he truly loves, but Ireland. As a member of the Fianna, they are the true guardians of the island and are renowned for their bravery which stems from their love of Éireann.
Naturally, the piece I am writing deals with the implications of this. You can take a leap of faith, but the person you love will lead you to your death, or like Oísin, return across the mystical waters to your proverbial Ireland and die wearily of old age anyway. Are you ready to take a leap of faith?