Haunting to the optimist are Søren Kierkegaard's words, "Marry, and you will regret it; don't marry, you will also regret it; marry or don't marry, you will regret it either way. Laugh at the world's foolishness, you will regret it; weep over it, you will regret that too; laugh at the world's foolishness or weep over it, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it; believe her not, you will also regret it… Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang your self, and you will regret that too; hang yourself or don't hang yourself, you'll regret it either way; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the essence of all philosophy."
The passage sits like a millstone at the bottom of a lake, quiet, heavy, and unmovable. How can the author of the concept of a "Leap of Faith" have held such a pessimistic view of the world? I'm reminded of Kohelet, the Teacher and the man surpassing in wisdom "all who came before" writing, "It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 1:14). The Christian reader, who picks random spots by opening to a page and placing a finger on the text often shuffle away from this book thinking God must have incorrectly divinely selected this scripture for their day's inspiration.
"Vanity of vanities", "You will regret both", like a duet these two philosophers echo a sentiment that I argue is essential for an effective life on earth: The understanding that the "business" that we have been given to complete "under the sun" is a fleeting and temporary endeavor. Like C.S. Lewis stated, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."
All who desire more, who strive after not the things of this world but the things "that are above" will find ourselves at some point expressing what Søren and Kohelet have. A profound dissatisfaction in the here and now and a yearning for what is to come. If the very earth "waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed" how much more should the children of God be crying out for that day?
For while here on earth we see that "I must leave [all my toil in which I toil] to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool" we know that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all".
So study, you will regret it, don't study you will regret that too. Speak and you will regret it, keep silent, and you will regret that too… but "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth" and "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things" and the words of Kierkegaard and Solomon don't seem so pessimistic after all; rather they sing a song of dissatisfaction with what we should be dissatisfied with and a yearning for that realization of what we were uniquely made to become.