Works of Love, Søren Kierkegaard
It is a well-known metaphor to speak of a fish out of water. If you’ve ever fished, you know that the literal experience of a fish out of water is painful and disturbing. It means death. To be out of one’s element is to be literally starved of oxygen, gasping for breath. Kierkegaard’s arresting image of what we need to do to keep love alive challenges us to think about what we do to maintain an atmosphere in which love can flourish. “Everything that is to be kept alive must be kept in its element.” How do we supply oxygen to our relationships? How do we maintain the element in which love flourishes rather than exhausts itself?
And yet, love’s element is infinitude, Kierkegaard tells us. Does that mean that keeping love alive is an impossible task? Yes. And no. The debt of love is infinite, and so we are called to the never-ending task of nourishing the atmosphere in which love lives and breathes and has its being. What is the love that you want to nourish? What damage has been done to the element in which your loves live? What concrete things do you wish to do to create new streams of oxygen? How do you want to embrace the infinitude of the debt of love?
Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado