Who despairs, sins? So that means not only do I have to deal with despair, I have to feel like a sinner too? That helps. Not. Right?
Hold on, reader. Before you continue, ask yourself if you need to hear any of this. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones, and you don’t need to know anything about despair because you have already left it behind you. In which case, read no more. On the other hand, if despair is something you struggle with on a daily basis, feel free to continue. Nothing you read here is likely to make it any worse.
Full disclosure: Since despair is the most consistent and persistent feature in my life, I am choosing to write about it – again, maybe for the last time but probably not. I want to get to the bottom of despair — but is there even a bottom? What if, the deeper I dig, the further away from the light I get? What if, on my mad, deluded quest to find the underworld of my psyche and there rout out despair, once and for all, I am only digging my own grave?
On especially bad days — like today — that’s how it feels. It feels like I am some sort of despair-generator, as if all the world’s despair spews forth from my own black heart, a self-pitying pit of pestilence. Never mind fear of fear, I live in despair of despair. It is a self-propelling circle of self-rejection. What is the point? But then, that’s the point of despair, isn’t it: pointlessness and the black, gnawing absence of hope. We live lives of quiet (or noisy, if you are like me) desperation.
I know that my despair must come from inside of me, because there’s nothing outside of me to explain it. There is nothing awful in the present (besides non-voluntary bachelorhood, I live an “enviable” life), and there’s nothing so terrible in my past (just one more traumatic childhood). As for the future, sure, death and old age looms, but that hardly makes me cursed. Am I really so alone or exceptional?? Maybe others just hide it better. But then, I hide it pretty well too. Most of the time when I interact with people, I smile and joke just like you do. So where does all this despair come from?
Nothing seems to work with despair. If I tell myself that it is all for some purpose—that I am “processing” ancestral patterns which my forebears and peers have avoided (by chasing wealth and status, going on religious crusades, and jacking off to internet porn)—then I give myself license to extend the misery indefinitely. If I tell myself it is only masochism and self-indulgence and that I could let go of it any time I wanted, the despair is magnified by a sense of my weakness and worthlessness.
God Help Me!!!
Is this what has made the world we are living in—a mad frenzy of delusional avoidance activity driven by a bottomless pit of generational despair? Why? What the hell is wrong with me, you, us?
There’s only one answer that covers all the bases: truth. Despair is the result of living out lives that are fundamentally untrue, inauthentic lives. So our despair is “punishment” for our inauthenticity, or at least, a natural consequence of it. Does it help to know that? Maybe not right away, but it does provide some sort of answer at least.
What matters isn’t the depth or persistence of our despair, but what we do about it. The only thing to do with despair is—nothing. In its purest sense, despair is the side effect of a cleansing process that occurs when we allow ourselves to see our inauthenticity. Despair becomes self-propelling and self-sustaining when we allow it to drive us into action or non-action that is colored or informed by despair (rather than by its opposite, yet close cousin, acceptance, and compassion). If I eat crappy food, seek out mindless distractions, avoid healthy activities and positive human interaction because of despair; or worse still, if I start to mistreat other people and take out my unhappiness on them; then despair has become an excuse for me to take refuge in inauthenticity, to retreat further and further into the nightmare of an illusory existence. The hole I'm digging goes sideways, and leads only into deeper and deeper darkness. There is no jewel-lit underworld at the end of my struggle, just a long dark tunnel, circling around and around the earth, endlessly. (Eventually the whole planet will cave in from our mole-like tunneling.)
But enough doom and gloom. This is supposed to be my way of saying goodbye to all of that.
Happiness isn’t found by pursuit. Meaning and purpose—where real joy comes from—aren’t things that we can create for ourselves. They won’t come from our parents, peers, or partners. They will only come from one place, because there is only one Source that is true, that can provide us with an authentic sense of being from which to live. There is only one truth. That simplifies things. Deep down, we know when we are living for—and as—that one true source of goodness and light, and we know when we aren’t. Despair is your friend because it lets you know that something isn’t right. We can let go right now: it really is as simple as saying it.
There are only two choices for any of us, at any time. Truth or despair.
I mean, really. How complicated is that?