Despair If You Must

Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash

Reading news and opinion articles these days all seem to be centered around the inevitable “collapse” of our cultural and societal norms and institutions, and I would agree that in many ways we are indeed in precarious times. However, I feel that to a great extent many miss a much larger point. The entirety of human, indeed biological, history is one of constant teetering on the verge of collapse. Yet we are still here. Our ancestors survived. Bacterial, plant, animal, human; we are descendants of survivors of collapse.

Nothing is guaranteed. Our lives balance on a knife’s edge. Between breaths, between meals, between religious ideologies, between relationships, between political movements, between solar flares and gamma ray bursts… It’s no wonder that folks look at the precariousness of our existence and can only point to divine providence as the explanation for why we exist at all. It could all end so quickly and easily… yet it doesn’t.

Maybe we’re stronger, more resilient, more creative than we think we are. Maybe we are not so brittle as we think ourselves to be. Maybe there’s more to life than simply the survival of our bodies, our egos, and our identities. Maybe we are more than that.

One of the most freeing moments in my recent life was when I realized, if I lost my corporate job (not that I’m actively trying to), then I’d be perfectly okay. More than okay really. I’d be free from a lot of the things that cause me stress and anxiety. For sure, there would be new anxieties that would come along, like where would I get the money for my food and mortgage and all of the other trappings (keyword “trap”) of modern “success”? But honestly, just re-framing my priorities really alleviated a lot of my anxieties.

After doing more soul searching and inner work on myself, I found other things to despair and be anxious over. It really can be never-ending. The ego will always find something to worry about. Philosophers call this existential angst. It is a product of the fact that I shouldn’t really exist at all, but against all odds, here I am. Here you are.

If I cut off my hand, I will still exist. I am not my hand.

If I lose my job, I will still exist. I am not my job.

If the nation I live in falls apart, I will still exist. I am not my nation.

If everyone and everything I ever loved were ripped away from me permanently, I will still exist. I am not that which I love.

Similarly, if the opposite were true, if all my wishes and desires were granted, all of my enemies crushed to dust, all opposition to my will removed, then I would still exist. I am not my desires, nor my enemies, nor that which opposes me.

If my body were to die and return to dust, I will still exist. If all of humanity goes extinct, I will still exist. When the sun burns through all of it’s fuel and explodes in a nova, incinerating every atom and molecule on this planet, I will still exist. So will you.

Nothing is ever truly lost. The same air that our ancestors breathed while hunting mammoths is the air that I’m breathing now. The dust that they became fed the plants that fed animals, including humans, that came later. Every part of us is recycled from the past. The past is present now. My loved ones that have passed on are not gone. They’re still here, just transformed. Just as I will transform. Just as I emerged from before I was born. Just as I am continually transforming.

I am THAT I Am. You are THAT I Am. We are so much more than what we see, feel, and believe.

Yes, there are terrible things going on in the world today. This was true yesterday and will be true tomorrow. It’s always been true. This has not stopped all of the beautiful and wondrous things from happening and being experienced by those who took the time to experience them. Just because it doesn’t make it into the news doesn’t make it any less real. Just because people aren’t writing about it prolifically, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Many of us are waking up to life beyond ego. This is such a beautiful thing. It’s totally worth the journey. It’s worth all of the pain that it took to get here. It’s worth the suffering that I’m sure we’ll continue to have to endure. But there’s freedom now in knowing that I am not pain and suffering. This too shall pass. We will pass, but we will endure. We are existence and will continue to exist; grown, nurtured, smashed, incinerated, reformed, restructured and over and over again, constantly changing and enduring as something new.

This is the gospel that Jesus taught. This is the truth of the Tao and the Buddha. This is the wisdom of Solomon and the Kabbalah.

If you must despair, then despair.
If you must grieve, then grieve.
If you must laugh, then laugh.
If you must love, then love.
If you must hate, then hate.
If you must be angry, then be angry.
If you must hunger, then be hungry.
If you must thirst, then be thirsty.
If you must desire, then desire.
If you must be free, then be free.

We are free to be all of these things and none of these things. The only difference between the past and present is that right now, in the present, we have choices to make. Our choices create the future. This is how we partake in Creation with God. This is how God creates.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

I choose to be a light in this world. I choose to be God’s light. When terrible things happen, I will react appropriately. But I will also react knowing that I am a child of God and my true self is not this body undergoing suffering. I will cherish those moments and grieve and be angry as I must, as I choose. Just the same, I will cherish those moments when the beauty of life is staring me in the face as a loved one, as a blue sky, as a flower, as a pile of rocks. It is all God staring back at me, staring back at Itself.

The future is not set in stone. Even God doesn’t know what is to come. We are the authors of our stories. Let’s create better stories. Let’s treat the prophets as we ought to, as fiction writers. Because any prediction of the future is merely fiction until it becomes present, becomes our story, becomes past. Until it becomes. Until then, we are becoming whatever we want to be. That is and always was God’s plan.

You must exist, so exist.

Photo by Leandra Rieger on Unsplash




Philosopher, Mystic, IT Professional, Nature lover, Agent of Balance

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M W Thayer

M W Thayer

Philosopher, Mystic, IT Professional, Nature lover, Agent of Balance

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