In the Silence


“No one can serve two masters, for he must either hate the one and love the other, or hold fast to one and despise the other.”

My Listener! You know there is often talk of an either/or in the world; and this either/or gives rise to a great commotion, involving various sorts of people in the most various ways, in hope, in fear, in busy activity, in tense inactivity, etc. You also know that in this same world people have heard it said that no either/or exists, and that this wisdom has given rise to just as much commotion as has the most significant either/or. But out here in the silence with the lily and the bird, should it be doubtful here that an either/or exists? Or should it be doubtful here what this either/or is? Or should it be doubtful here whether this either/or is in the deepest sense the only either/or?

No, here in this solemn silence, not only under God’s heaven, but in this solemn silence before God – here there can be no doubt about it. There is an either/or: either God – or, well, then the rest is a matter of indifference; whatever else a human being chooses, if he does not choose God he misses either/or, or he is in perdition through his either/or. Thus either God – you see, there is no emphasis whatever placed on the alternative except by contrast to God, whereby the emphasis falls infinitely upon God. So it is actually God who, by being himself the object of the choice, tightens the decision of the choice into truly becoming an either/or. If a human being were capable of thinking, in frivolous or melancholic fashion, that where God is present as the One, there were actually three things to choose among – he is lost, or he has lost God, and therefore there is actually no either/or for him. For with God, when the notion of God disappears or is distorted, the either/or also disappears. But how could this happen to anyone in the silence with the lily and the bird!


Søren Kierkegaard

The Lily of the Field and The Bird of the Air, pg. 39-41.

Translated by Bruce H. Kirmmse

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