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
I can relate to much of what you say here. I think, or perhaps say to myself anyway, that these feelings come from being sensitive and allowing the feelings to have weight, where as for some others, even when they have similar feelings, they dismiss them.
“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.”
What a dilemma, yes? For me, the only way to make sense of the intuition that things matter, is to remember how much others have touched me, as this is very true. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that we are all influenced by each other in meaningful ways.
I was really touched by your post, as I have traveled down a similar path with religion in my life. I have joined more churches than I care to admit, but none of them ever stick, even if I do have a lot of respect for their beliefs. I am trying to make my peace with that.
Thanks for what you do here.
I love your observation that perhaps “these feelings come from being sensitive and allowing the feelings to have weight.” The aware inner voice always asks questions like this, doesn’t it? And well it should. As long as we don’t give it any more weight than the feelings themselves. A dilemma for sure. And I agree that the solution is to remember how we’ve been touched by others. This is so much more important that mental beliefs. What’s most important is accepting and coming to terms with our own realities: trusting and loving them, giving them a higher priority than the ideals of others who don’t walk in our shoes. Thank you for your affirming and thoughtful comment.
Jeanie, I think you already know me well enough to know what I feel about what you wrote in this blog post, but let me tell you just in case. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said! I think that each life in the billions of dancing lights in this plane of existence- and beyond – is an important part of the whole. I believe, as you do, that we are guided by an intelligent, loving universe…much more than we know. That it is cause for celebration in the spheres beyond material existence when we humans pause long enough to actually feel the love and good counsel all around us when we begin to listen with our hearts and minds connected. And, yes, I have had the same existential fears and thoughts many a time: that we are all marching toward oblivion and who will even remember that we even lived a generation from now? And then I get back to remembering we have a purpose in the Big Picture of existence…and that could be as simple (not simplistic) as modeling an authentic life as we live in peace and harmony with who we are and the conditions of our life. There is more than physical evolution going on. We are part of a spiritual evolutionary thrust as well. We don’t have to be remembered in an Ego sense in the annals of time, although many do leave behind blueprints to follow (like you with your books)…it’s also enough to know that we are part of a beautiful whole as we live our lives true to who we are, utilizing the gifts we were given. Then, we are each playing our part like an orchestral choir that makes beautiful music throughout the cosmos.
Wow! Thanks for leading me down that road, my friend.
Many thanks, my friend.
Oh my, Jenna! I am so inspired by your ego’s ability to let your soul speak its truths. Modeling an authentic life, making our own lives a work of art, seems to me to be the most important gift we can give to the world. Being “remembered in an Ego sense in the annals of time” seems so inconsequential compared to being an authentic individual. I feel known and affirmed by you, and I thank you for the gift of this comment. Hugs back, Jeanie
Sorry friends. There’s something going on with wordpress tonight that is mixing up the comments and replies. For some reason I can’t respond immediately to some of the comments or eliminate the demands to respond to a non-comment! And some of my responses are appearing much later than the comment that elicited it! Phooey! I hope you will understand and forgive. I’m doing my best to create sense out of this particular bit of chaos! Actually, chaos is good by the way. It keeps us alert and human! 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your experience of the conundrum so many of us face. Beautifully expressed. I can honestly say that the reason I didn’t attempt suicide a second time (back in my 20s) was because I found a stray dog — she needed me and I needed her; she saved me for 15 years until I was strong enough to recognize what you say, what Debra comments, that my life counts. I won’t go on and on. Thank you to everyone who speaks up on this topic. Blessings!
Debra, I’m glad to hear that angels come in the form of a dog. Actually, maybe I already knew that. :>))
Blessings to you for rising to the need of another being until you were strong enough realize that your life counts on so many, many levels. I bet it would boggle your mind to how many people’s lives you’ve touched in a positive way. I am one of those people, now reading your words.
Sorry, I’m getting my D names mixed-up. My note above it to Darla. But I also thank Debra for her comment as well.
Jenna, something weird is still happening with wordpress. As I write this, there is no comment from Debra in my list of comments. So I don’t know what she said. Maybe it will show up tomorrow?
Or maybe you meant to say Darla? Anyway, I, too, am open to the idea that angels can come to us in the form of a dog. I had a golden retriever named Bear who often took me beyond ordinary awareness and left me in awe. He’s gone and I miss him terribly. But a new golden retriever will accompany me to our summer home in two days and I already know that even though she isn’t Bear, I’ll soon be feeling the same awe and wonder again….
Darla, your story about the stray dog touched me deeply. I never attempted suicide but I can assure you I contemplated it. And I resisted the impulse because of those who needed me and whom I needed until I finally got the message that my life counts too. There was a sweet little terrier mix in my life in those days, so who knows what she might have contributed to my decision to stay here? I certainly don’t, but I have come to cherish the mystery of it all!
Thank you so much for writing.
Darla, do you sometimes think that dogs are angels in disguise? What is it about them? Their unconditional love? Their loyalty? Their admiring gazes no matter how little time and attention we give them? Just saying….. The Mystery certainly seems to be using every possible experience and feeling to drum it into our heads that our lives count, doesn’t it? And yet we have such a hard time getting the message. So are dogs smarter than us? I don’t know. Just saying…. 🙂
Like several others here, your post comes to me at the perfect time. As I delve deeper into my dreams and jungian analysis, as part of my new role at work, I am very much overwhelmed by the layers of depth and despair that surface. As a fellow “deep-feeler,” I can be pretty overwhelmed just walking through the grocery store sometimes, let alone doing authentic inner work.
Yet, the gifts I receive from fellow bloggers who courageously speak up about their own paths, really comforts me. One of favorite bloggers really touched me quite deeply recently, probably more than she will ever know, by sharing her own forays into questioning why we are here and her own attitudes surrounding the inevitable suffering we all experience at some point in time. In that sense, even despair itself is incredibly beautiful, for it weaves our web in such intricate ways that really leave me in awe.
As I am in my late twenties and quite “in the thick of” my own healing, I feel containment is quite an important thing to honor right now, but as I become more and more integrated with my own process, and decide to share more of it, I will look back at you, Jeanie, and my other blogger friends with sincere heartfelt gratitude and admiration for sharing their wisdom here.
Thank you so much for shining your light, Jeanie.
You are wise to protect your tender new insights from others at this stage in your life. The time will come when voicing them will be of benefit to others. You will know when the time is right. Until then, absorbing and learning from the wisdom of others who are taking this deep-feeling journey will serve you well.
I agree that even despair can be incredibly beautiful. Suffering is an affirmation of life, the ultimate miracle. And suffering is also a prod to experience more of life as fully and honestly as we can. Learning this truth is a major lesson along the path.
Thank you for sharing your heart.
Jean, The first comment on your post is signed, Debra. And, yes, I meant Darla in my comment…got my D names mixed up.
Yup! Thanks. I just saw that! I was focusing on “ptero9” until a minute ago when I saw that “Debra” was the signature. Thanks for keeping me up to snuff. It’s getting late here in Florida and I probably need to go to bed! Hugs!! J
Maybe you are this Knowing, this One Mind, Jean. Maybe everything is made of this. It would account for much 🙂
Wow. What a mind-blowing thought! I suspect you may be right, which means, of course, that you are also this Knowing, this One Mind. It would indeed account for much. How else would we come to this realization if we were not part of it and it were not part of us from the very beginning?
You have made a difference in mine, too. xxx
In times of immobility and emptiness, it helps to know and feel that despair is just the mattress and not the bedframe we lie upon. And even at our most disconnected, to have had access to the Mystery brings a gentle touch to the rawest of pains.
I consider myself fortunate in the knowing and hope it has taught me gentleness over the years. Tough though that can be, at times. 🙂
The amount of times your posts speak to what’s happening in me, I thank you Jeanie.
“…despair is just the mattress and not the bedframe we lie upon.” One who had not had access to the Mystery could not have written that, or known about its gentle touch to the rawest of pains. It gives me pleasure to know my posts so often speak to what’s happening in you. Your poetry does the same for me. I suspect the explanation is that we are are in a similar place on the same journey. Having had access to the Mystery we want more of it, and we’ve been using our writing to understand and purify our souls that we might be worthy of it. Perhaps we’re alike in another way too? That we’re beginning to realize we already are? Blessings, Brian.
Serendipity. I sat down to read your post last night after coming back from my elderly parents’ home, feeling despair at their despair and that too-familiar feeling of “what’s it all about, anyway?” Reading your honest and heartfelt post soothed and calmed me, made me sob, and left me feeling drained and energized at once. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Oh my. I’m so sorry for your pain and so glad this was of help. You’re most welcome.