Deciding between a million different roads to drive on

Will Enberg, Opinions Editor

Choices, choices, choices — Our lives are spent restlessly combing Reamer Campus Center, bounding from Dutch Hollow to the Bookstore, to the 807 Deli, the Marketplace, and then to the Garlic Nott, only to circle right back to Dutch Hollow, praying to select an option with which we will not later regret. How much easier our lives would be if only we could simply frolic into the Marketplace to find that Joyce had carefully decided what it is that we will eat, subsequently eliminating the anxiety that comes with making a final decision for ourselves.

The anxiety we feel stems from the idea that we have nearly unlimited ways to live. In each passing second we are presented with options, but despite the millions of varying routes perpetually available to us, we have to choose one. Whether you are deciding between eating a salad or a pizza, going to class or drinking beer, sleeping or watching conspiracy theories about whether or not birds are real, you will eventually have to come to terms with one path and then act on it. Yet, it is in the inherent uncertainty of how our decisions will play out that fuels anxiety.

In this very moment, you, the reader, can do any number of things. You may choose to keep reading, or you may decide to throw out this edition of the Concordiensis and replace it with a fun, flavorful copy of Adirondack Sports. This ability to determine the best course of action for yourself is known as freedom. The freedom to do anything. The freedom to succeed and the same freedom to make a mistake. It is this suggestion that constitutes Søren Kierkegaard’s reasoning of free will as both a blessing and a curse.

Given the practically infinite number of choices by which our lives are shaped, Kierkegaard offers that more freedom and more opportunity has the potential to breed discontent. In his theory, Kierkegaard observes the human tendency to strive within a scope of limited freedom. As such, it is a natural course of action to want to outsource oneself to the will of another. Though we might be content to let Joyce dictate our lives, Kierkegaard would advocate for us to be true to ourselves, because to be one with the self is to be content with our anxiety.

An elemental component of our existence, one cannot live an authentic life without grappling with the natural response of anxiety. This notion of uncertainty pushes us to scour Reamer so that we can better understand everything that is being offered to us. In knowing our options, we discover the correct course of action based upon what we know about ourselves. It is a simple logic but proves beneficial in showing us what we want, both in our stomachs and in our lives. Play into the anxiety, understand that you are performing on behalf of yourself, or of others.

In his work “The Concept of Anxiety,” Kierkegaard attempts to convey that anxiety is not something with which we ought to run from or rid from our existence. He explains, “Anxiety is an alien power which lays hold of the individual, and yet cannot tear oneself away, nor has a will to do so; for one fears, but what one fears one desires.” Perhaps we are fearful of living without something, perhaps we fear judgement, failure, uncertainty. None of this matters. Above all, what matters is finding purpose, finding a truth that is true to ourselves.

You live in this world, and though you may not be able to know everything, you can certainly do everything. A life spent searching is not a wasted life. You can find exactly what it is that you’re looking for because you are in control of the decisions you make. Kierkegaard argues that one of the biggest dangers that you can face in this life is losing your self.

The self can leave you, pass off in this world unconsciously. However a loss of self may not be as evident as losing your phone or a wallet. When you lose your self, it can be months or even years before you realize that you are not living true to who you are. Kierkegaard suggests that a majority of people who are alive today are not living in such a way that is true to themselves, and are subsequently lost.

In this scenario, to be lost in the way in which Kierkegaard describes is to think of one’s existence as confined. Kierkegaard would point to the subject who negotiates identity based upon the present social or cultural conventions. Though he would acknowledge the struggle that may inevitably come with enduring a society such as Trump’s America, he would reinforce the notion that our choices are our responsibility.

Our lives do not just have to be the by-product of wherever we happen to be born, the choices we make are free ones, and not always just some manifestation of things that are out of our control. Truly being a self requires you to makes choices about who you really are, as you are the only person who can genuinely decipher the person you want to be. Embrace your anxiety, embrace your freedom.