In the introductory note to Kierkegaard’s1 For Self Examination he writes about the trial of Socrates. In particular, he focuses on Socrates’ refusal to accept a defense speech made for him by an orator. Socrates tells the orator that he does not need to come with a prepared speech as he will be able to speak at trial in the same way he would speak to a street-side merchant. Kierkegaard suggests that living this way, in a manner that is ex tempore, is perhaps the most appropriate way to approach life.
Kierkegaard goes on to say that this approach to living does not mean that you come unprepared. He argues that it is your experiences and journey through life that has prepared you to speak at any given moment. I find this notion fitting for several reasons. As a person who has come to identify strongly with the views expressed in a specific branch of Quakerism, the idea of an unprepared meeting is important to me. Within a gathering such as this nobody comes prepared with a speech or sermon and no one person leads. I feel that this idea would be wonderfully beneficial outside of the religious context that Quaker’s put it in.
All too often we come to a discussion or a meeting prepared to uphold and defend all sorts of views and ideas. Sometimes this preparedness keeps us from being able to listen and contemplate and grow. The concept as presented by Quakers is that you should not come prepared to speak or prepared to stay silent. You should come to be present.
Fair warning, but you will probably see me reference Kierkegaard a lot here. ↩