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Is the cost of embracing the reality of our existence sadness and misery?  These are excerpts from an insightful essay found over at Aeon magazine by Julie Reshe. I would recommend you follow the link and go read the full essay, as Reshe’s writing and conclusions she has reached seem to be quite compelling.

For instance, this passage eloquently speaks to the emotional fracture I felt back in 2018 when my wife decided to end our long term relationship and marriage.  It’s like, ‘whoa, right there with you Julie’…

 

“The reason for my depression was a breakup. But what led to depression was not so much the reaction to our split, but the realisation that the one you believed loved you, who was closest to you and promised to be with you forever, had turned out to be someone else, a stranger indifferent to your pain. I discovered that this loving person was an illusion. The past became meaningless, and the future ceased to exist. The world itself wasn’t credible any more.”

[…]

 

“Although the depression following my breakup doesn’t rise to the level of existential angst, it was the strongest perspective-shifting experience of my life. It irreversibly changed and traumatised me at the core of my being, and I am now generally sadder and more withdrawn than I used to be.

Alas, what if this is the cost of losing our illusions and learning infinitely more about reality itself? We might be getting there. Some studies suggest that existential suffering and mental distress is rising worldwide, but particularly in modern Western culture. Perhaps we chase happiness precisely because it is no longer attainable?

The vicious cycle in which we find ourselves – the endless pursuit of happiness and the impossibility of its attainment – hurts us only more. Perhaps the way out is actually accepting our raised level of consciousness. In our melancholy depths, we find that superficial states of happiness are largely a way not to be alive. Mental health, positive psychology and dominant therapy modalities such as CBT all require that we remain silent and succumb to our illusions until we die.

In closing, I must address you, my dear reader. I realise that, as you were reading this essay, you must have experienced a ‘yes, but…’ reaction. (‘Yes, life is horrible, but there are so many good things too.’) This ‘but’ is an automatic response to negative, horrifying insights. Once exposed to these forces, our positive defence mechanisms kick in. I myself was caught in the drill while writing this essay (and pretty much during the rest of my life). Without this protective measure, we would all probably be dead already, having most likely succumbed to suicide for relief.

A small proposal of mine would be to explore disillusionment and refuge from positivity as a new space to experience life, hopefully before a suicidal reaction follows. Next time, before you plunge into alcohol, or make appeals to loved ones, friends, psychotherapists or to any other of the many life-affirming practices, remember that almost all constructions of meaning – from work to sport to opening our hearts to Jesus – are inherently illusory. An alternative to running away from life through illusion is to explore an illusion-free space for as long as possible, so as to become more capable of bearing the reality of a disillusioned and concrete life. If successful, you’ll free yourself from your faux-positivity and your chains.

In the end, of course, we might not be able to liberate ourselves, either from suffering or from illusions. Life is hell, and it looks as though no heaven awaits us, to top it off. This, in itself, might be a path to liberation since, after all, we have nothing to lose.”

Age old question really, ignorant and happy or informed and discontent?  Which is better?

 

 

 

Ever get that feeling of being a leaf in the wind?  It is the state of the world that makes me not want to care about what’s going on because it is so overwhelming.  Tom Engelhardt from Tom’s Dispatch compares the current dystopia with withe one portrayed in 1984.

“Unfortunately, on both counts Donald Trump is proving dystopian indeed. He is, after all, the president who threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea (before falling in love with its dictator). He only recently claimed he could achieve victory in the almost 18-year-old Afghan War “in a week” by wiping that country “off the face of the Earth” and killing “10 million people.” For the first time, his generals used the “Mother of all Bombs,” the most powerful weapon in the U.S. conventional arsenal (with a mushroom cloud that, in a test at least, could be seen for 20 miles), in that same country, clearly to impress him.

More recently, beginning with its withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, his administration has started trashing the Cold War-era nuclear architecture of restraint that kept the great-power arsenals under some control. In the process, it’s clearly helping to launch a wildly expensive new nuclear arms race on Planet Earth. And keep in mind that this is happening at a time when we know that a relatively localized nuclear war between regional powers like India and Pakistan (whose politicians are once again at each other’s throats over Kashmir) could create a global nuclear winter and starve to death up to a billion people.

And keep in mind as well that all of the above may prove to be the lesser of Donald Trump’s dystopian acts when it comes to the ultimate future of humanity. After all, he and his administration are, in just about every way imaginable, doing their damnedest to aid and abet climate change by ensuring that ever more carbon will be released into the atmosphere, warming an already over-heated planet further. That’s the very planet on which humanity has, since 1990, burned half of all the fossil fuels ever used. Despite the Paris climate accord and much talk about the necessity of getting climate change under some kind of control, carbon is still being released into the atmosphere at record levels. (Not surprisingly, U.S. emissions began rising again in 2018.)

This summer, amid fierce heat waves in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere, as well as the setting of global heat records, with parts of the Arctic literally burning (while heating twice as fast as the world average), with Greenland melting, and the Antarctic losing sea ice in record amounts, some of the predictions of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the relatively distant future already seem to be in sight. As climate scientist Marco Tedesco put it recently, speaking of the Arctic, “We are seeing ice melting now that we expected 30 to 40 years from now.”

We are, in other words, already on a dystopian planet. With threats to the world’s food supply and the swamping of coastal cities lying in our future, with the migration of previously unheard of populations in that same future, with heat rising to levels that may, in some places, become unbearable, leaving parts of the planet uninhabitable, it is at least possible now to imagine the future collapse of civilization itself.

And keep in mind as well that our own twisted version of Big Brother, that guy with the orange hair instead of the mustache, could be around to be watched for significantly longer, should he win the election of 2020. (His polling numbers have, on the whole, been slowly rising, not falling in these years.)”

 

Hmmm…new video games coming out soon…now there is a happy thought…

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