This morning I read a blog post from a dear internet friend, writer Vivienne Tuffnell, titled “Humankind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality.” It can be found at this link . It was originally written two years ago, and Viv has just reposted it. It was about depression and despair. At the bottom was a new comment from another internet friend, John Amenta:
“It did not matter, after all. He was only one man. One man’s fate is not important.
“If it is not, what is?”
He could not endure those remembered words.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, Gaverel Rocannon, Rocannon’s World
I too have suffered from despair since childhood. It began at the age of 11 when my father died. To this day there are many occasions in my daily life when I cannot get excited about something because I know it will not last and my pleasure will not last and I will die and nobody will care and nothing I have done will make any difference, and so what?
I started believing in religion because of this despair, and then I eventually gave up on religion for the same reason. It may be fine for others, but it never made a dent in my despair.
Yet I believe this: If my fate is not important, what is? This belief— actually it’s not a belief but a knowing — has come slowly over a lifetime of spiritual questing, meditation, and self-discovery. It has come from too many synchronicities to count in which I was reminded over and over and over of another, spiritual, dimension of reality that is very different from this physical one, yet is sister (or brother) to it. The knowing is characterized by an objective awareness that all the things I fear and fret about are really “No big deal,” and by the freedom to be myself and do my thing with an effortless, anxiety-free ease.
It feels to me as if this dimension, this One Mind or Consciousness or whatever it is, this invisible, untouchable reality, is “interested” in me. At times it feels like it’s guiding and affirming me. Tiny, insignificant, unimportant me. This makes no rational sense. Yet this is my experience. Others might dismiss it with a scoff and a flick of the hand. Yet this is my experience, and it brings meaning and peace.
I believe I’m fairly conscious of the terrifying reality beneath the surface of life. I’m often acutely aware of the tininess of my one little soul and body in a universe too vast to even imagine. I’m constantly reminded of my mortality and often have the feeling that death hovers just over my left shoulder. And sometimes I am awakened to deeper levels of reality which deepen my despair.
Yet, over time, somehow the tragedy of life has come to be balanced with a consciousness of the miracle of life in such a way that the despair never “wins.” It’s always there, like the sun that can blind me or the radiation that constantly pierces my body, but it never wins because it’s partnered with the knowing. The knowing is always there too, like the air I breathe and the blood that pumps through my veins and the earth I walk on. I think of it as a gift of grace. I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know why I have it, but I do. Maybe it’s always shared a bed with despair in the depths of my soul and my inner work simply awakened it. Whatever the reason, when I remember to notice it, it puts the despair in a different perspective. Instead of feeling hopeless and afraid I feel comforted because I “know” that life and death — like importance and unimportance, vastness and tininess, electrons and neutrons — are in a never-ending dance and that I’m an important part of it and always will be.
I hope this doesn’t sound “woo woo” or silly or self-important or preachy. Most of all I hope it doesn’t add to the pain of those of you who know despair. I just hope it gives you a shred of hope that there might be a shred of a reason to hope.
Thank you Vivienne and John for your inspiring honesty and wisdom. This post is dedicated to you. You’ve both made a difference in my life.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks