Today is my 8th day in this quarantine facility. I woke up to the sound of someone knocking on my door. I’ve been living in a small room, separated from the common area of the apartment that I share with 6 other people. The apartment has 3 rooms, one is the living room or the common area, one with its own toilet and the other is where I live in. The knock on the door was to signal that breakfast is here. In this facility, breakfast is served usually around 7:30 AM. Today feels like a slow day, probably because it’s Saturday.
Am I drawn to the darker aspects of life?
I wonder why I’m so gravitated towards the darker, subterranean aspects of life. Is that sentiment even correct? No doubt, there was a time, particularly when I first read HakoMari – my favorite novel, that I thought I was in constant despair because the novel depicts despair in such vivid images that I identified with. However, as time goes by, I slowly came to realize that these moments of despair are, in truth, only part of everyday life. If my life was made into a movie that only displays the events that I went through from another person’s perspective, it’d be a third-rate movie at best. That is to say, my life is not dramatic at all.
However, subjectively, some trivial events, such as my first heartbreak, or my first academic failure, left permanent marks on my psyche, changing my behaviors and forming parts of my personality. But fewer and fewer events have these characteristics with time. Fewer and fewer events come to define me. Gradually, even during the most difficult and troubling times in my life, I can’t help but think “this too shall pass”. It’s a testament to its triviality.
“This too shall pass”, they say, and I believe this to be true. I saw with my own eyes that even the most painful and intense feelings fade away. Some of them leave behind a hole in my soul that perhaps will forever be there. Yet, as Tupac says, life goes on. Despite all the tragedy that I suffered which I didn’t think I would have recovered from, life goes on mercilessly. It doesn’t wait for anyone. Desperately trying to get on with life, these tragedies and sufferings of mine slowly but surely get washed away by the sand of time.
But in that outlook, there’s also some sort of hope. There is no despair that cannot be trivialized by the flow of life. No doubt, there are people who cannot recover from tragedy, plunging into their own self-destruction and perhaps the destruction of people around them. But for me who has returned from staring into the abyss, I can safely say that nothing will ever truly break me, not anymore, at least. A sentimental me would say that it’s because I’m already broken, but a more holistic me would deny such a sentimental judgment. But, it is true that since I’ve already experienced despair (in my own estimation of course) and walked away from it transformed, I can testify to how the flow of life makes all that comes after trivial. Despair is that mechanism of the flow of life that renders all that comes after it trivial.
One intuitively understands that some events affect people in a deep and profound manner, such that permanent behavioral or personality changes will take place. These changes are in no way trivial, yet they are few in number. As dramatic events define and reshape you, a sort of rigidity starts to appear, meaning that you start to get less and less affected by later dramatic events. One’s nature is perhaps shaped by that which dramatically happens due to the particular environment, personality, and upbringing that one has. In my opinion, the most profound and impactful events often induce despair.
Despair happens once or twice
Despair seems to be a state that you can only be in once or twice in your life, and definitely not a frequent occurrence. There are roughly three ways I can see someone getting out of it. Either you get out of it by denying and rationalizing the despair away, telling yourself not to think of it, or that it only affects other people. Or you fall prey to its malevolence and eventually take your own life, in the process possibly destroy other people’s lives. Or, you incorporate it. You stare straight into the abyss, you don’t divert your eyes away from the sufferings, and you accept it all as part of yourself.
Amidst the spiraling down which perhaps ends in insanity, you still have to accept everything presented to you. It’s not even correct to say that you have to maintain your sanity, because I don’t think that’s possible when it comes to despair. It’s more correct to say that, despite losing your sanity, you must not avert your gaze. You have to look at all that is presented, the ugly things about yourself, about other people, and about the world. You have to take them all in, chew on it, think about it, and never once lie to yourself that these things are not real. Only after accepting and incorporating the despair that necessarily accompanies the abyss, you can walk away from it a better-integrated person.
The immortal Pheonix
I’ve always associated with the image of the Pheonix. The immortal bird that flies through the sky with fire coming out of its wings and entire body. This fire keeps getting stronger and stronger. Eventually, there comes a point where the fire becomes too intense that the Pheonix burns itself to ashes. But, from the ashes, the Pheonix re-emerges again, into a transformed being, now capable of withstanding the fire it once couldn’t handle. The Phoenix never truly dies, its death only means transformation.
I’ve always found such a creature appropriate. I identify with it because all my life I’ve always been drawn to transformations, in me and in others. Whether it’s work, productivity systems, or relationships, I’ve always been striving towards a more transformed state of being. I’ve always been willing to discard the insufficient parts of me, letting them burn off like deadwoods, so that transformation can take place.
Especially in relationships, this means letting go of someone I loved but don’t think we have a future together. Even through these tough times, I have not once regretted my decision. I would say that’s another of my strong suits, I don’t regret decisions, because I went through great pain thinking about them. Fortunately, it enables me to think all the mistakes and all the sufferings I cause for me and for other people are, in a sense, not to be regretted. That is because learning from them makes me a better person. If I were to regret and deny them, I would be, in effect, denying the person that I am today, and that is one thing I will never do.
So am I drawn to the darker aspects of life?
So is it correct to say that I’m gravitated towards the darker, more subterranean aspects of life? I’d say that I’d love to see the darker sides of human beings, the moments of despair, the ugly parts that they want to hide from the world. Why? Because I am drawn to transformations, and it is in the metaphorical death and destruction of oneself that transformation is most possible. The best kind of transformation is so great that they require people to give up what they are, for what they will become. So it’s not entirely correct to say that I’m gravitated towards the darker aspects of life. It’s only a means to an end, it would be better phrased that I am drawn to transformations that often are only possible in the presence of the dark sides of human beings.