The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, defines dread as the knowledge ofwhat you must do to prove you’re free, even if it will destroy you. His example isAdam in the Garden of Eden, happy and content until God shows him the Tree ofKnowledge and says, “Don’t eat this.” Now, Adam is no longer free. Thee is one rulehe can break, he
break to prove his freedom, even if it destroys him.Kierkegaard says the moment we are forbidden to do something, we will do it. It is in-evitable.Monkey think, monkey do.According to Kierkegaard, the person who allows the law to control his life,who says the possible isn’t possible just because it’s illegal, is leading the inauthenticlife.In Portland, Oregon, where I live, someone is filling tennis balls with hundredsof match heads and taping them shut. They leave the balls on the street for anyone tofind, and any kick or throw will make them explode. So far, a man’s lost a foot, a dog,its head.Now the graffiti taggers are using acid glass-etching creams to write on shopand car windows. At Tigard High School, a teenage boy takes his shit and wipes itaround the walls of the men’s bathrooms. The school knows him only as “The Una-Pooper.” Nobody’s supposed to talk about him because they’re afraid of copycats.As Kierkegaard would say, every time we see what’s possible, we make it hap-pen. We make it inevitable. Until Stephen King wrote about high school losers killingtheir peer groups, school shootings were unknown. But did
make itinevitable?Millions of us paid money to watch the Empire State Building destroyed in
Inde- pendence Day
. Now the Department of Defense has enrolled the best Hollywood cre-ative people to brainstorm terrorist scenarios, including director David Fincher, theman who made the Century City skyline collapse in
. We want to knowevery way we might be attacked. So we can be prepared.Because of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, you can’t mail a package withoutgoing to a post office clerk. Because of people dropping bowling balls onto freeways,we have fences enclosing highway overpasses.All of this, reactive. As if we can protect ourselves against everything.This summer the man convicted of killing my father said, hey, the state couldgive him the death penalty, but he and his white supremacist friends had built andburied several anthrax bombs around Spokane, Washington. If the state killed him,someday a backhoe would rupture a buried bomb and tens of thousands would die.What’s coming is a million new reasons not to live your life. You can deny yourpossibility to success and blame it on something else. You can fight against everything—Margaret Thatcher, property owners, the urge to open that door mid-flight, God...everything you pretend keeps you down. You can live Kierkegaard’s inauthentic life.Or you can make what Kierkegaard called your Leap of Faith, where you stop living asa reaction and start living as a force for what you say should be. What’s coming is amillion new reasons to go ahead.What’s going out is the cathartic transgressional novel, now that we havesomeone to hate more than each other.