Critical Zero II
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
"The something I am...is precisely a nothing....Existenz at that critical zero...between something and nothing, a mere perhaps." — Soren Kierkegaard
I shared this quote in a former post and would like to here again consider the theme of critical zero. What is it? It is first and foremost, a realization of the peculiar human experience of becoming, of both being and not being.
As Sartre has it: "A being such that, it is what it is not, and is not what it is." It was this that Kierkegaard realized and nurtured as the place of critical zero where authentic, self-reflective existence takes place. It is the ever conscious awareness of the unfixed nature of the human experience.
Super-impose over this the words of Zhuangzi and you might discover an interesting agreement: "The Radiance of Drift and Doubt is the sage's only map."
Jaspers, from whom I have this quote from Kierkegaard, moves from this view of the human reality to a discussion of how Kierkegaard was careful to acknowledge that his philosophical pronouncements were likewise unfixed and unrealized. They were aspirations. They were forays into the unknown and could not be unlinked from what is basic to human existence, that it stands on no firm ground upon which to build an edifice of supposed truth. He was careful to return to critical zero. To return to critical zero is to come back to reality. It is to return to honesty.
Because it is what is most essentially human, critical zero is also ground zero for the realization of the human capacity for transcendence. It is never out there in truth and knowing, but always right here in this tenuous flow. It is always and only being just who you are.
I have spoken against 'seriousness' as that attitude which believes it knows or is about to know truth. It is as if one went forth from oneself and forgot to return — forgot what it is to be human, forgot to return to critical zero and have a good laugh.
Authentic spirituality, I believe, is above all else, honest. And this may very well mean that it appears as no spirituality at all. For it does not hide its warts nor present a made-up face. And it may be more manifest in a laugh at one's own expense than in a wise and sober brow. For to laugh at oneself, is to be truly self-aware. And without that, one will certainly forget to return home.
You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.