As it has been for many of us during the last twenty months, this pandemic and period of waiting for me has been trying mentally to say the least. Of course I would love to be one of the people who learned a new language (I definitely could use it), or found a new workout regime. It just so happened that the start of this global pandemic came just at a time that I was stepping out of one life and stepping into another. I had just given up my job and apartment to go to find new ones in another country. Unfortunately the governments of both countries told me to take two steps back into that old life and wait until further notice. Starting a new life would have been hard enough without international travel bans and safety mandates. The first seven months I spent sleeping on my mother’s couch, reading books that meant nothing, eating food with no nutrition, and pacing around trying to avoid anger. The next nine months I spent stepping back and forth between my mother’s couch and the doorstep of my new life. The last four months after that I spent getting temporary jobs in an attempt to help with my mental and financial maintenance. Now here I am trying to guess how long the next step of my life will be and to hold that tiny little sliver of hope that this time will more promising and I can build something now. All my life the worst thing that could happen to me was that I would become homeless. It has happened to more hard-working people than myself. Now I am quite literally without a home and I feel that the thing I should have feared was the loneliness. And it isn’t the loneliness from being physically alone, because I do have some family that is helping me tremendously through this time. It is a loneliness that creeps into your mentality, that exiles you away from connections that are healthy for people. It’s the thoughts that transport you to the furthest part of the universe you can imagine, and then try so hard to keep you there.The resistance to those thoughts often make you just sob in frustration. It’s wishing you could rage quit life, but not by dying, just by going away indefinitely. It’s hoping that consciousness does exists outside of the body so that at some point you might actually feel the freedom from obligation that is life one day, and not just long for it your whole life with no avail. You can sit there and tell the people you love the most how you feel and it will feel entirely meaningless. They can understand, but it is no consolation. I have actually said it before, but I will say it again here. If there was a physical pain that matched the emotional pain that comes with this type of loneliness, it would have to be like being stabbed with a long, acid-covered sword. It penetrates your core and takes months to heal from the inside out; that is if it ever does heal. I believe that if I were to have gone through with medical school like I had planned, I would have made it my mission to take that pain away from the world.
We find ways to numb it. In my immaturity and first experiences with it, I turned to drinking and occasional drug use. The older I get, the more I realize the futility of that type of temporary appeasement. Like so many others, I have turned to media and other escapist methods instead. Music, movies and news have been a source of distraction through the pandemic. The most recent and poignant of late are the shows Scenes from a Marriage (HBO 2021) and Foundation (Apple+ 2021). Between these two weekly releases, I have had something somewhat philosophical to look forward to each week. I find that watching them alone really allows me to feel the thoughts they bring up and to reflect on which parts of my philosophies do I want to develop more going forward. This week I ran across a newly discovered and released record of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. Coltrane was the master of melodic Jazz and hearing this recording brings out a kind of oxymoronic hopefulness, like having an awareness of every second that goes by and being aware of the survival of it. Far In by Helado Negro, a new album released this week is perfectly melancholic and motivational at the same time. I like that the artist says that each track is a world in its own, which it does feel like. If you are feeling particularly existential, I can recommend Wake Up Tomorrow from this album.That keeps my mind moving and my fingers writing in some ways. I watched the movie Max and Helene (2015) which is a remake of a book published by Simon Wiesenthal in 1982. It resonated with me because the motif that understanding an ‘enemy’ is understanding yourself in so many ways. I also just watched the 1952 movie Carrie which stars Sir Laurence Olivier and Jennifer Jones. It definitely played right into the news and the struggle of wealth inequality that the U.S. is currently seeing. Being closer to poverty has shown me that money can be a state of mind more than a currency. It is so easy to get upset over the news – and so hard to stay informed while not letting your disappointment take over. Congress and President Joe Biden are currently butting heads over the “Build Back Better” plan, arguing over whether to give the poor and disparaged one penny or two. All the while millionaires are becoming billionaires and billionaires are becoming trillionaires. Lately I only feel American politics is acting as the universe; expanding out and away. Eventually the lack of connection between the polar opposite political views will result in a climax. The middle becomes so scarce that no one is agreeing on anything and will fight over everything.
There is one thing that I do want to discuss more in depth, and that is a particular scene from the Apple+ show, Foundation. Now this may be a spoiler for anyone who is still planning on watching it, so if you haven’t seen it, do not read further if you don’t want it to be spoiled. Towards the end of episode six, the current emperor of the system goes to visit a distant planet system that lost their leader to old age. In the absence of the religious leader, two candidates (called zephyrs) are vying to become her replacement. This specific system is led by mostly women who believe in a religion called Luminism. I could go on and explain what the whole nature of this specific religion is, but for sake of brevity I’ll skip that and just say that it is one of reincarnation given by a higher power. One of the candidates makes a speech about reincarnation and the importance of making the now count because you eventually will come back to progress your soul further. It is not so much the motive of the speech that affected me so, nor the religious gravitas. It is a few lines from the speech that really caused me to reflect on myself, and our current state of humanity. During the speech, the candidate says the following:
“A single life in a single body raised in a single world; such a soul had no foothold to climb from the trenches of ignorance. For there is no end to this journey. For our capacity for growth is infinite. As the galaxy changes, so must we. We must embrace the value of transformation, of evolution, of difference. The greatest failure of humanity… is stagnation.”Zephyr Halima, Foundation S1 E6, Apple+
I could only think about the division we have seen rise in recent years and how fear of change has shaped so much of what we refuse to acknowledge as a race. I could only think about how much my perception of my inaction in recent years is that of stagnation, and how it contributes tremendously to my depression. I could only think about how badly I want to be part of the changes that will be happening in the future. This part of the speech reminds me of how important progress is, even though it can be scary. So much of what got me through the hardest parts of my life was based on the belief that all times are only temporary. “This too shall pass” as people often anecdotally say. “To evolve is to survive, and to survive is to evolve.” This notion set about in the quotes from Halima’s speech so perfectly sums up in a few sentences Absurdism and what it is to me. However, this notion can easily bound into the realm of Nihilism, even Cioranian philosophy for that matter. “All change will evolve us somehow so don’t worry about it.” The problem with trying to explain the significance of this part of this speech with aphorisms of philosophy is that the newness is lost from it. What I felt hearing Halima passionately say these things was not entirely new, but it was awakening. We all want to be better versions of ourselves, but when we fail to push to become them, the acknowledgment of that failure can in some ways be enough to change us in the coming times. This epiphanic reflection of just how stagnate you feel is enough to change you going forward. Yes, I know what you are thinking, “But talking about how shitty you have been doesn’t actually change how shitty you are.” Well just look at the stages of grief: the real healing happens after the stages of acknowledgment and acceptance. Why should our personal growth not include grieving who we could have been. I truly believe that accepting that change will happen regardless and realizing that you can better control that change if you accept it is a critical step in being able to progress. This goes for politics, this goes for social and economic matters, and it definitely goes for the individual. I am sure at some point someone in the history of humanity has come to this conclusion as well. It is just this gives new meaning to beauty queens saying, “I wish for world peace.” How are we ever going to change with the galaxy if we don’t ever acknowledge that change will happen whether we like it or not? How can we pull ourselves out of a pit of stagnation if we never accept that we have been stagnate? As another character says in the same episode; “The search for meaning is not always about the answer; it is the process that enlightens.”