Life Can Only Be Understood Backwards; But it Must be Live Forwards

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-8-40-25-pmChristian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is widely considered in the circles of philosophy to be the inventor of existentialism. Most of his work, written under various pseudonyms, deal with humankind’s relation to faith and how they ought to act. Interestingly, the word angst, an uneasiness caused by a realization of one’s responsibility, was first used by the Danish philosopher.

Easily Kierkegaard’s most widely-known, most lauded, and paraphrased quotations, he wrote this about life:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

We can all learn a bit from Kierkegaard’s wisdom. The only way to make sense of the world and our place in it, we must reflect upon the past. How we got to where we are today depends entirely on the past, that which has been lived. However, life cannot go on if we are constantly dwelling over things not in our power, so Kierkegaard urges us to keep living for the future; after all, if we do not live forwards, we will have nothing to understand backwards.


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