The Train of Despair | Does your favorite thinker, author, or book make you fall into despair? | The Despair After Our Illusions
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So…let’s enter the labyrinth.
A French countryside is a place of wonder and beauty. He watched out the window as the train went by the quaint villages and towns that you could make out in the distance.
“It’s funny, there’s a true oddity to what various forms of travel do to the mind…be that a train ride, airports, or being at sea.”
His friend nodded. “Truly, but what has your mind…occupied?”
“Coming to face the reality that some of my favorite books and thinkers are ones that make me wonder if I’m truly glad to have read them.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know my predilections…most of those writers I love the most are ones that leave me feeling as if I’ve been punched in the gut or chest by reading them. The refreshing feeling of profound insight, but immediately followed by despair, disillusionment, and sometimes simply withdrawing from reality.” He looked back out the window with an obvious dreariness in his stare.
“But these writings…they’re merely thoughts from another. You take them in and consider their merits, yet you allow them to stand separate.”
“Oh, I do.” He quickly turned his focus back to his friend. “But in the beginning, the ideas stand separate, as they do when I read a Christian’s arguments for God… I stand separate because I want to understand their perspective, but their view never becomes me because I’m simply learning, nothing more. Their ideas will not change my life anymore. No, the truly great writers with profound ideas and methods of presentation that punch you right in the face…those ideas start off as uninvited guests. I never asked for them, but they arrived anyway. And in the moments that I begin understanding what they have to say…I’m glad they came. I want to listen to them, but sometimes I want to go back to when I didn’t know them.”
His friend, now also peering towards the window, hesitated for a moment, and asked, “well, what’s an idea that you’ve consumed that you’d like to give back?”
“Hmmm,” he reorganized his posture, and then raised his arms beginning to slightly point at his friend, “okay, I was reading the French Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan on love, and honestly if you’re looking to romanticize your perception of love, avoid psychoanalyst in general.”
His voice was beginning to raise with excitement at this point, while the rest of the train remained mostly silent. His friend was attentive. “So, ‘love’ for someone becomes a desire from our own inner perception — conscious, unconscious, or a mix of both…but this desire comes from something we perceive we are lacking in, yet wish to have. Okay, are you with me so far?”
“So you see…we are pulled towards loving people we see ourselves in, yet different, just enough to pursue through them what we do not have. Our desire for them remains until we determine what we’re lacking in…what happens when we’ve made this discovery? Does it become the pursuit of our next perception of lack? Our next love?”
His friend was nodding with a calculating expression. “So we’re searching for our next romantic love to complete us. We want this person because we see in them what we’ve found lacking or unseen in ourselves? Yes? Is that correct?”
“Yes,” he nodded with a smirk, “but it can be even more cynical than that because we build our desire from our lack, thus nobody ever completes us because we are never complete — we’re always lacking in something.”
“Yes, but can we find acceptance in our lack? Thus, find someone that compliments that lack?”
“No!” He responded with his hands becoming more anxious. “This is the point I cannot get myself to overcome…our lack is always changing. The awareness of what we’re lacking in flows and changes as our understandings of our inner self changes. If we find what we’re lacking in within another, and we recognize this lack, then staying with that partner becomes an acceptance of stagnation for your current understanding of the self. You become comfortable with your lack instead of further understanding the self and the persona you create from the inner psyche.”
His friend leaned in closer, with a grin saying, “well you seem to have become comfortable.”
“No no no!” He quickly retorted. “I’m trying…what I mean is it’s the focus on lack, that if understood properly, should help us understand ourselves more deeply and how we create our perceptions of self.” He paused for a moment. “You see, though, this is my point. I do not even know if I fully agree with what I’m saying. I cannot help but feel I’ve created this conceptual box for myself that I cannot seem to escape from — the view I’ve expressed has become me, and I cannot seem to get my mind to escape what I perceive to be life’s contradictions.”
“Ah, but you can just cast it aside as some meaningless illusion,” his friend interjected upon sensing the more dreary change of tone.
“You might be right,” he said as he turned to look back out the window. This time leaning his head against it as he continued to watch the French landscape. While smirking, “But you make a good point, because although I question what I’ve read, it’s the very breaking of my illusions that I’ve fallen in love with. And it’s a recognition that those breakings of illusions are what lead to despair. Yet, when those illusions fall, you perceive you are coming into something more real about yourself and reality. It’s in this despair that we begin seeing our distortions for what they are. So, maybe, through my despair, maybe I’m finally seeing the world as it is?”