Unbearable Ennui

Perhaps the enormous consequences of the pandemic are only now beginning to sink in. Maybe that is why, this morning, I feel fragile; as if I were a hollow vessel whose skin is a microscopically-thin crystalline membrane left behind when salt water evaporated. A touch or a breath could shatter that thin film into a million irretrievably broken pieces. The absence of those things, too, could trigger the explosion of that empty shell.

I have always understood the fragility of human life; any life. But life and living are distinct from one another. We can prolong life. But when the ability to live it disappears, life becomes a cage. A prison in which the inhabitants are predatory emotions. This morning, I think I understand how terribly and painfully delicate living can be. When the structures around which one lives one’s life are bent and deformed into unrecognizable forms, the purpose of life is called into question. Is life, in the absence of the ability to live it in a way that adds internal and external significance, really of value?

As much as I disagree with people who call for returning to “normal,” I think I understand their panic. They do not call for dangerous behavior simply because they are stupid (though they justify their demands with logic befitting only stupid people). They refuse to believe in the danger because to accept its existence would make them appear afraid. Instead, they demonstrate deep-seated fear of being unable to live their lives; they choose to ignore one type of fear and to disguise the other with bravado and wave after wave of illogical justifications. They may not know they are asking the same question in an abbreviated way: is life, in the absence of the ability to live it, worth living?

I am angry this morning, too. I am upset with a universe that would dare tease us with such remarkable opportunities for joy and then turn on us and threaten to shred those opportunities into useless rags soaked in misery and sorrow. But I question myself in my anger: how can I be angry at an inanimate “force,” an amalgamation of everything from matter to power to emptiness? My answer: I do not know. But I am. I should have stayed in bed this morning and slept this off. I don’t think it’s possible to sleep off a deep and unbearable ennui, though.

Some mornings, I wake up singing silly songs. This is not such a morning.

Regardless, I will try to flip a switch and turn into my happier self.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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