The world is going to hell in a hand basket.
At least that is what it seems like.
Everyday there is something else going wrong. In the last week, war broke out in Ukraine, and South African artist and icon Riky Rick committed suicide. It is not like war isn’t going on everyday somewhere in the world. And it’s not like people don’t commit suicide every day. But at this time, as a result of media obsession and celebrity, these events stand out and weigh heavy on our collective consciousness.
It was a dark week. In the past few weeks, I’ve had people close to me admit suicidal ideation or attempt. I know what that feels like, I’ve been there before. And as I write all of this now, I’m realising just how heavy the dark cloud has been the past few days.
And I don’t know what to say or how to help.
I generally try not to feel…too much.
I’m not a robot I know, and I think I am actually a sensitive and emotional person at the core. But I’ve never felt comfortable with it, with feeling. Emotions are powerful, the true definition of compelling. But they are often inaccurate, or counter productive. They are an inescapable part of the human experience. Between the ego, our history, our trauma, our fears and desires, they are always there, pushing and pulling us.
We live through the entire gamut of emotion – joy, pain, sadness, elation, desire, fear, jealousy, love, anger, impatience, anxiety. And if we do not learn to live with and master them, they can rule us. They are strong drives and urges. And with a world and society that seems to exist to prey on and manipulate those drives, we are stuck in a web, a matrix of impulses and results.
Which is why I’ve always like stoicism as a philosophy, as a practice. To help train ourselves and our minds. To be able to embrace emotion and yet see it clearly. To see the world as much as possible, as it truly is, and to remain even keel through it all. Never giving in completely, unconsciously to extreme happiness or extreme pain.
The master does not block himself from feeling, nor does he allow himself to be swept up in the passion incessantly. He lets it in, delves in it fully, and teases out the useful information from the noise, and then takes the right action. Emotions are not his master, but another tool in the work belt of life.
Too often we are the opposite, unable to truly judge our emotions, understand what the root issues are and deal with them. More often that not, we just feel and react. And so we stay stuck in loops. We are triggered and we react. Over and over again, to the same stuff without change.
And it remains a wild world out there. The pandemic rages on, climate anxiety is at peak levels, late capitalism is groaning and straining against its limits, and people are realising that they can’t keep on sacrificing themselves to the system. Our problems are real, but not insurmountable.
To deal with things appropriately, we would need to be our own eyes of the storm in the chaos that is the world. Which means to cultivate an inner citadel. To build an oasis of peace. To come to terms with ourselves and still the storms within. Only then do we have a hope of acting correctly.
We have to do the work.
We have to learn heal our traumas.
We have to learn to escape from the spaces that hurt us, and cultivate the ones that nurture us.
We have to stay focused.
We have to get clear and get to know and accept who we are, and what we want.
We have to take care of ourselves.
And if we need help, we have to speak up and ask for it.
And if we can help, then we have to reach out and give it.
We have to build what we want and create anew.
We have to remember that it can’t always be night. Even though it may be dark today, the sun will shine again.
That is how we stay sane. That is how we prevail.
I have been depressed for the past week. Why? I don’t know, I could postulate theories, but I don’t really know. See, the thing is, I get depressed frequently. I think it comes in cycles of a few weeks at a time. It just is…it’s been like this quite a while, maybe 3, 4, 5 years now. I don’t mind it, I am used to it. I am happy sometimes, like really ecstatic. Other times I am just sad. I don’t judge the emotion. I just let it be. I realised though that in this specific week, I have had multiple epiphanies. Each insight has made me temporarily lighter, but then I sink back into the darkness and it continues. I think it’s here to teach me things and it will leave when I’m done.
There is a darkness that lies within. I think it’s in most of us. I love my darkness; I’ve grown attached to it. In fact, I have let it define me. Life outside my darkness is scary, unknown. I think that is why I get depressed often, I like it. See, my darkness lets me believe I am this deep brooding artist, this complex misunderstood being. Why do I want this so much? How do I draw strength from this? It makes me feel superior, enigmatic. It keeps me aloof, away, distant from friends, family. It leaves a vacant stare in my eyes.
The darkness protects me. It gives me the illusion of strength, of being in control. I am protected from the world around me, its uncertainty, and its people. It all comes down to love at the end of the day. I dislike love. Sometimes, I feel like I hate love. I’m not only referring to romantic love, I mean love in general, in its pure essence. Because I hurt love, and love hurt me. So I retreat into the numb cold of the darkness.
At some point in time, the darkness within was born. There is always an origin. I don’t know when mine began. It seems as if the moment I gained consciousness of my unitary existence in the universe, my darkness was born. The illusion of being me. Hmmm…I don’t know, that’s an interesting meditation point though. I’ll go down that rabbit hole another day. As I write this, I reflect, some sort of meditation. I look back on my life, and all I see through this tinted depro shades is a string of painful experiences. A line of black spots, birth places of darkness. Each birth snowballs into the next, until the small spot of darkness swells to fill the sky, and all we have is night. That’s how I feel.
How to lift the darkness? I have no idea. I do know I’m tired of it though. I know it’s possible to live in unshakeable peace and intense joy, and I want that. I will keep picking up the gems in this dirt; hopefully I will eventually stumble on the key.
My friends and I refer to it as a weakening of the Force. There comes periods of times where you slip into the dark shadows of discouragement, depression, apathy and fear. Nothing seems worth it, life is dull, creativity is dried up and you feel paralysed. I know how it feels, I have been under that dark cloud for like 7 days now. Call it my dark week..I guess. I couldn’t design anything worthwhile, felt like I was just being a technician and not an artist, no inspiration, just rote design.
Anyway, the clouds are breaking up and I see shafts of light piercing through, as the issues that were stressing resolve themselves. One great help has been a book I picked up recently ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’ by David J Shwartz. I heard of this book before from other books I read, and I only found it a few days ago. It has been a quite perfect antidote to my situation. What you think about becomes your reality. It takes as much energy to think small as it does to think Big, you might as well THINK BIG. Infact, it is easier to think and act big than it is to go small, because most people settle for small anyway, they settle for small in their lives, their work, their projects. Not a lot go for big, a lot less competition on First Avenue.
So Think BIG! Especially if you are going against the grain, risking it all for an idea, for an ideal, for your vision with burnt bridges behind you. Don’t stand at the shore bemoaning the past, look firmly to the future, think Big, take massive action and fly. If you going to fail, at least fail spectacularly…let the world see you burn, make a mark anyway…lol. Cheer up, stretch, think Big and push hard. You got this!