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.