I hope you enjoy the following lightly edited post from June of 2014. Dealing as it does with the all-too-common experience of despair, it could have been written yesterday.
Just where we don’t expect life, there it will be, because the life that we know is almost exhausted. The new life always comes from an unexpected corner. Carl Jung Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-34, Vol. I (27 May, 1931), p. 377.
This morning I read a blog post from an 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 occasions in my 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 organized religion for the same reason. It might help others, but it never made a dent in my despair.
Yet I believe this: If my fate is not important, what is? My answer: the sacred life within me and everything that exists is important.
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, Consciousness or the Sacred Self, is “interested” in me. At times I feel 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 flick of the hand. Yet it 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 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.
[T]he way of nature will bring you quite naturally wherever you have to go. Carl Jung Visions: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1930-34, Vol. I (10 June 1931), pp. 402-33.
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. Some dances never end.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.