Santiago de Arteaga (Bio)

To die being oneself: The literary image of the ‘teacher of earnestness’ and it’s place in self-becoming

I will argue that the metaphor of death as ‘the teacher of earnestness’ present in Kierkegaard’s At a graveside is “an example of thinking oriented to becoming subjective”, as Climacus states in the Postscript, a literary act of philosophy oriented to bring forth the movement to realize the essential task of life. The thought of death can produce a mere mood or one can appropriate death as one’s own lot by turning to the teacher to bestow a profound significance on life, for “to die well is … the highest wisdom of life”. This is the teacher’s lesson that “accelerates life”. Moreover, Climacus asks: “To become what one in any case is... who would want to waste time on that?” The task of becoming oneself is the ultimate task. And, as Anti-Climacus states in the Sickness, to become a self is to produce a synthesis that relates itself to itself and in doing so relates to God as its foundation. The individual becomes earnest by the appropriation of death as his own lot, an existential knowledge that shapes experience in responsible action because there is “no time to waste”. Deathly decision, which comes from thinking death “into every moment of my life” brings full significance to the individual’s life by the appropriation that death is his own lot. This earnestness means that the relation that is the self relates itself to itself because it has no time to waste to become itself and has obtained such caring consciousness. Death, the “teacher of earnestness”, teaches the wisdom of appropriation that accelerates life with the decisiveness of action to become oneself, which is the highest wisdom of all, the “essential knowing … that pertains to existence … my responsibility for my own becoming.” And to die well is to die being oneself.