Brain Food #461

Leap Before You Look

Some things make no sense but are the things that make us feel alive. They are the things we know within us, that cannot yet be supported by reason.

Alluding to the leap of faith that Soren Kierkegaard coined as a term and based much of his philosophy on, W.H.Auden wrote Leap Before You Look in 1940, a play on the proverb ‘look before you leap’. It is about favouring action despite the omnipresent threat of unfavourable outcomes.

The dream of safety is an illusion, Auden writes. In a world that does not always make much sense, particularly now, maintaining authenticity, and moving forward despite of all the uncertainty, becomes a necessary risk that our own survival depends on. The challenge is how to move forward without it being a reckless act: one’s leap may be another’s fall.


Leap Before You Look

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.


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