Despair

Well, so much for that last post. The past two days have hit me with an overwhelming weight of something close to hopelessness. And this was before Ruth Bader Ginsburg left us. Good for her; she could use some rest.

This is not hopelessness for the future, though I can’t say I hold myself above that either. I am hopeless for the present. It isn’t any one thing; I’ve just been overwhelmed by the cruelty, lies, ignorance, and lack of compassion here there and everywhere, in every way you could imagine, again and again and again.

I have gone through all my default consolations, the logic I pull out when love and spirituality aren’t enough. Nothing is working. I can knock down every one.

There is good in the world every day; what I hear and see suggests a world of constant horror, but that is not the case. Every moment, people are helping people, putting themselves at risk, loving despite real, deep danger.

It’s not enough. The pain experienced around the world is overwhelming. You know, that stuff is nice and all, but it’s not enough. Not by a fucking longshot.

Things go in cycles. Perhaps this a bleak time, but we’re not on a downward trajectory. The cycles of humanity are like the cycles of nature: birth and death, pain and pleasure, day and night.

Yeah, really fucking hard to think of this as a cycle when simultaneous fire tornadoes (firenadoes?) and hurricanes are battering our country. Not to mention the locusts in East Africa, the encroachment into non-human space that created the coronavirus, the 121degree record temperature in the LA suburb of Woodland Hills, blahdeblahdeborg. Climate change is not a cycle. Maybe it is, but not for humans. For us, it’s a trajectory towards massive death, disease, and destruction of the countless creatures that live on this fucking gorgeous planet, this planet that often keeps me from descending into the bog of fuckit.

None of this is real. This is all an illusion. We should experience life while we’re watching a movie, not like we’re in it.

Yeah, fuck that shit, too. Yes, thank you Ram Dass and Baba Neem Karoli. I know you understand that it’s more complicated than that. I kind of believe it, but the problem is that for the people drowning in the Mediterranean, or being sterilized in detention camps or grieving the killing of their Black brothers, sons, and fathers in the US, or watching their children starve to death in Yemen, enlightenment is not available or practical. It doesn’t matter if it’s “real” or not. It is real to them. That is all, and it is agonizing.

This is the darkest timeline.

Is this really comforting? Maybe, because it’s kind of a joke, and ties into the Game theory of the world, kind of like #3. There is something comforting, I suppose, about believing this is just a roll of the dice, or that alternate selves are living a better timeline elsewhere. But again, people are still in agony, many living things on earth are still in jeopardy.

I had a thought last night that maybe the darkest element of our timeline is not the unconscionable things that are happening, but our habitual living of our lives. How can we continue like this? How can I put my time and energy into earning a paycheck in a job that only minimally, indirectly, sort of helps some people, when children are being held in prison because they are brown and were born South of the border? How are we all not committing our every waking moment to chaining ourselves to whichever of the hundreds of inhumane institutions we prefer and screaming our throats raw, getting thrown in jail, getting killed to wake other people the fuck up and maybe change something? At least people like me, with no kids and no health problems and very little holding me back. How can I live with myself?

We are subject to the control of our evolutionary patterns.

This doesn’t ever give me comfort, but at least it explains things. Explanations aren’t enough anymore. When an expert informs us that men rape, torture, dismember, and display the dead bodies of young women in Mexico because they are forming bonds, because collusion build community, I don’t feel better. I just wind up at

Humans are awful.

Honestly, this is the only thing that has given me comfort the last few days. That we are designed by evolution to be horrible, selfish, violent, territorial, frightened, parochial beasts. If I see the world that way, I can find some joy in the times when we don’t meet expectations, when we are kind and generous and thoughtful.

But it doesn’t last. Because I don’t believe it. My parents, all parents (I’ve been told) fucked up a lot. And yet I give a shit about people. Most of my friends also care, also wouldn’t kill someone for profit, also feel compassion for people outside of their tribe. So what the fuck is wrong with the people who aren’t like that? Why are people so cruel?

Flipping again, maybe my cohort isn’t that great. How much are we really doing to help? How much of our own comfort are we really willing to give up for the sake of a keystone species? How much effort are we willing to put into ending a genocide? And even when we do make the effort, why are we doing it? Out of self-righteousness? To be seen as good? Are we really any better than anyone else?

What’s left?

What comfort does the world have to offer me? I suppose I shouldn’t seek any. I should sit with this until I can get to a place I can live with again. I’m fairly confident that will happen. But not entirely confident. Does knowing the worst that might happen keep it from happening? Can we stop ourselves from walking into the fire?

The young man who wrote this poem died in the Mediterranean Sea, trying to cross to a livable life:

You’ll die at sea.

Your head rocked by the roaring waves,

your body swaying in the water,

like a perforated boat.

In the prime of youth you’ll go,

shy of your 30th birthday.

Departing early is not a bad idea;

but it surely is if you die alone,

with no woman calling you to her embrace:

“Let me hold you to my breast,

I have plenty of room.

Let me wash the dirt of misery off your soul.

Abdel Wahab Yousif

He was a poet from the Sudan, and his nightmare was stark reality, unlike the unfounded fears of so many here: child-eating democrats; COVID slavery; Black people. Are my fears of what is to come for this country likewise ridiculous? Or will I be referencing this blog post when I am arresting or maimed for practicing my first amendment rights against the government?

I stumbled across a kind of soulmate while reading myself to sleep last night. Robinson Jeffers also had no love for humanity. He felt that the further we removed ourselves from nature, the more insufferable we became. He did not perceive humane to be a word of ethical or compassionate behavior. Perhaps the climate crisis and the monstrous president and the wars and for fuck’s sake Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s untimely death are not independent atrocities, perhaps our decision to set ourselves apart from the world and our inextricably tied family on the earth is why we are saddled with this unbearable loss and sadness and, for me anyway, today anyway, true despair.

I don’t know. Here’s a picture of the beautiful man who wrote that poem. Beauty creating beauty. There’s that, at least. Maybe that’s all there is.

Abdel Wahab Yousif

post-Post post:

There is always the possibility that this is the fire we need, to burn things down and start over. Perhaps not the most optimistic option, but it’s something.

3 thoughts on “Despair

  1. 😢You put words to how I was feeling at the moment I opened your post. We are shell shocked soldiers in a war between the too-many people who embrace their darkest impulses and those who try to be good. The evil has crawled out from under its rocks and jumped, armed to the teeth, from out of its shadows in recent years and appears to be winning. It is hard not to despair as we’re surrounded by all this hate and horror and terror. Thank you for acknowledging it, putting our agony into words. Now we must go back to fighting for good to prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I find I have as usual too much to say, so overwhelmed, I consider just saying nothing at all.

    Here though, is one not on your list that I can eke out between the anniversary of my mother’s death in September, the year that I met you thousands of lifetimes ago, and some very intense work around meaning and purpose.

    We are consistently duped to consider life a product. So duped that we’ve begun to believe that our fucking selfhood, our relationships and every part of our society must conform to an end state, for us to find happiness.

    The only end state in fact is death (maybe. I still doubt that too). The liminality of our experience in being, is likely much more torturous for us than it is for any squirrel, bird, fish, reptile, or maybe gorilla.

    The one thing that humanity might have that other animals may not have is an extra layer of suffering involved with believing we should be able to shift the world or ourselves to conform to what we believe would be better. It is a recipe for misery.

    The dog who I live with isn’t happy when he can’t go outside, when he’s hungry, when it’s super hot, super cold, the air is too smoky to breathe, or when he can’t get anyone to play with him. Yet, unlike most people who I know, it seems he may not endlessly fault himself for not having mitigated climate disaster, not being able to go where he wants, do what he wants, or to make other people do what he wants.

    This dog, Ulysses, seems therefore able to be where he is, and enjoy what he can enjoy, and to feel sad about what he feels sad about. He seems to come to terms with his experiences in a way that allow him to easily adapt to shifting circumstances.

    I could be wrong about much or all of that, except maybe that the source of much of our misery is believing that we should control that which we definitely cannot control.

    At the same time, we definitely should do what we can to mitigate or ease the suffering of others. If we find ourselves in a position to do that by like changing broad scale human behaviors which create climate disasters, my god, great, that’s the dream right, if we can figure out how to get into that position and shift things, then yes, we should do so.

    What if we don’t have that power though? So many of us want that power, and cannot find it. What then?

    I mean, that’s not quite the right question though damn this binary society, I need to move 40 degrees from the problem, not 180 degrees. The question I really need to answer is why don’t I have that power? What would it mean to leverage myself into that power, or into any power at all that will help shift the status quo of human and ecological abuse that so trouble me?

    Look, we are having a harder time because we do not like things which are considered standard. It is nearly impossible to live in an extractive culture of usury, to depend on that for survival but to try to undo it from the inside. It’s a much harder position than just going along with either extracting and using or being extracted and used.

    And there’s more even than that to consider. In addition to that hard time, some of us have other hard times to contend with as well. I mean, counting the capsized boat in Alaska just before you somehow tracked me down and called me there, or the guy who tried to strangle me to death a few years before that, or the ledge I fell off of and had to be hauled up back onto in the dark by two friends, or so many, many other things, I feel unable to process even my own personal suffering, let alone metabolize the grief of the whole world.

    Yet, here we are, suffering in this world similarly, and I have an oath to mitigate suffering as much as I can. So, I have to dig deep and say to you friend that the works we want to do in this world require us to undo much of what was done to us.

    We are not products, and we will not produce solutions. We are organic like rain, like blood, like marrow. We don’t need a more efficient way to use our time. When has weeping been understood as efficient? We don’t need to create art which will cause people to see what’s wrong. We need to create space for people to dream what’s possible.

    I have no idea what I’ve written into this tiny bright box. I love you. I love the poet who lost his life on the boat, who left the violence in Sudan, and didn’t make it into the embrace of the person he thought would heal him. Or, maybe in his poem, he did make it into the embrace of every reader.

    It might not be enough. I mean, maybe I’ll never be happy because I was born to a mother who manifested like a war. Maybe my words too, create the main embraces I’ll ever know, as I write from the ever-sinking boat of my own life.

    Or maybe that I love, is more than enough. Maybe I’m bringing something into this world that is worth the unbearable pain that I endure. Maybe I won’t ever be lucky enough to know what makes my own suffering worthwhile for the collective, but even so, I hope at least the small hope that some good will emerge from my own losses.

    There’s one other thing. The teachers aren’t saying that this world is an illusion because it doesn’t matter. All of the suffering matters and should be attended. They are saying this world is an illusion because it is fleeting and in those changes, right there in the unstatic nature of our world, is the potential for a lessening of suffering.

    If we can be less attached, we can be more fluidly capable of helping the changes that ease the suffering. I do not believe that what they are urging is detachment to create apathy, but instead detachment to create agency. It is a difficult translation from the original cultures to this one, because there are some assumptions in the cultures of the original teachings which do not exist in this one.

    I am wishing you every good thing, and a recognition of how and where your spirit soars in this world, in this very world.

    Please excuse any typographical errors, this is really long and hard to edit on my phone.

    ❤ lily

    Like

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