L'il Philosophers: Soren Kierkegaard, Age 6

L'il Philosophers: Soren Kierkegaard, Age 6

If the tooth is "free" from my mouth, all is well. I can accept this. But if the tooth requires extraction, then I must ask: By what means? In what way? Dental procedures must be conducted dentally, which is to say, by a dentist. It must come as a result of leaving school in the middle of the day to visit the dentist's office to undergo a procedure, bloody or bloodless. This I cannot abide. Those who would extract my tooth by artificial means, which is to say the means of the world, and not by nature are those who are tolerant of dentists, which is to say indifferent to my plight as the bearer of the tooth. Ah, yes, the concept of dentistry in itself is a good and proper thing, but my life as a patient of dentistry, it is indeed wretched.

And whose promise am I to accept as the way of the world? Am I to sit by and yield to the insistence of my father who promises that a new tooth, a stronger tooth, a better tooth will grow in the lost tooth's place? Am I to bow to my mother's promise that a creature of unknowable qualities, a tooth fairy, will look upon my incompleteness, my ugliness, my pain and in replacing the talisman of that pain acknowledge it and describe a better, kinder world?

Ah, but would this be correct even if this tooth fairy did as my mother insists it will? Is it right and pure to exchange my talisman of pain, a natural thing, a true thing, with something as base and worldly as money? And what does it mean that the money the tooth fairy leaves is such an insubstantial amount as to be meaningless on its own? It seems to me this indicates some cruel lesson about worldly things. Why, in order to acquire enough money from the tooth fairy to do anything of substance, a boy would have to lay the entire contents of his mouth under his pillow in one night.

And yet I am also promised that every tooth I have will go as this one, my talisman of pain, will go, only gradually. This tooth fairy would make a mockery of my plight by trading my agony piecemeal for insubstantial coin after insubstantial coin, encouraging me to do naught but suffer blood and loss for what amounts to the price of one piece of candy, the very same thing that renders my teeth in need of "emancipation" in the first place.

I have no recourse but to reject all of this on its face. What am I to do for my teeth, let alone every other part of my being, if every promise one institution or another makes to me fills me with doubt? How is a boy to go through his life feeling doubt for his own body? Though I cannot accept my mother's assertions of a tooth fairy, I must have faith that the course of my dental health is as it should be, that good will come from my pain. If a martyr I must be, then I will be a martyr. If to the dentist I must go, then I will go, head held high, mouth open wide. But I shall not spit when the dentist tells me to spit. I will only spit when I know it in my soul to be right to spit. And I will not accept my father's assertions that new teeth will grow in the empty spaces of my lost teeth, but I will have faith that I can do whatever it is I need to do in this life toothless, or with new teeth, or with any strange thing that may sprout where once teeth stood. Because this is my mouth and this is my life and I will not bow to the conventions of those who would make doubt my first and only thought.