on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

contemplating on how to respond

Trying to publish regularly is a commitment. I used to write every sunday, rain or shine, whether I felt like it or not. Nowadays I’m trying to be easier with myself so I gave up on the sunday routine, telling myself that I’ll write at least once per week on any day, and it doesn’t have to be on a sunday. Ironically that was meant to encourage myself to write more, not less, because I felt like I was restricting my own spontaneity by only writing on sundays.

I read somewhere that spontaneity can only exist when one feels healthy and safe (by Winnicott). My health in the recent few months has worsened, so I’ve been thinking and looking at almost everything with dread. Writing, having been such a source of comfort and catharsis to me for such a long time, has also become something I dread. The internet and the world have become a different place too – is it even appropriate to still publish mundane writing online when there is so much chaos and suffering?

Nothing is probably appropriate anymore – that is probably why I read of so many people going into deep depression or zombie-like paralysis. Life when times were good was already stressful for me in many ways, and now I feel bad for even existing and being safe when so many people have lost their lives. I don’t really know how to respond, except that diminishing myself will do nothing to lessen the suffering of the world anyway.

This is actually a familiar scenario for me. I came to a metaphysical position that I personally want nothing out of life and I am somewhat still existing in order not to cause more suffering in this world. How does one live when one sees no purpose or meaning in life? The initial response is usually existential depression, because we’re so used to the concept that everything must have a reason and/or purpose. We’re utilitarian creatures, especially us in Singapore. Utility is comforting, it is comforting to know all of this is for a use, for an outcome.

I could go into minimal existing mode: just feed myself and make sure I do the bare minimum to survive. But imagine being trapped in a box for a very long time, do you really want to lie there and wait for inevitable death, or try to be in such a way that the journey to death is not just filled with boredom and dread?

If death is the outcome, we could try running away from it, resist it for as long as possible, pretend it doesn’t exist, or perhaps – march peacefully (my initial choice of word here is joyfully, but on second thoughts I don’t want to reinforce the belief that joy is necessary or the only state we can desire) towards it with as much dignity and as little harm as possible.

Of course, the typical response I would guess is to fight against it, whether is it climate change or death. I can’t speak for other chronically ill people, but I spend most of my waking moments fighting for my own body, much less have the energy to do anything else. How does someone like me tolerate the frustration and sadness of witnessing so much suffering and not being able to do anything about it, whether for myself or for others?

I don’t have answers for now, but I think at bare minimum I don’t wish to live as though nothing is happening. Even if I am ill, frustrated, sad and helpless, even if I can do nothing to ease the situations, I will try my utmost to not run away, and be with this.

Religion and philosophy are ways humans cope with the reality of existence. Some people turn to stoicism, some turn to buddhism, some prefer the comfort of the abrahamic religions. I personally prefer some sort of creative flexibility in how we live and respond to the world and ourselves. When it is time to grieve perhaps grieve with all our hearts, when there is pain and suffering perhaps the rightful response is to sit with it and not dismiss it with unempathetic optimism. There is often so much conditioning, so much social pressure, that we often do not know how do we individually wish to respond to a situation – we try to opt for the socially acceptable reaction.

What is personally acceptable to our selves? I think this is a question we’ll be asking ourselves again and again as we navigate into unchartered waters in the next decade or so. I hope we do, to exert that bit of a consciousness we possess to contemplate how we wish to respond to everything that is unfolding in front of us.