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Expat Life

Managing the ‘spirit of heaviness’


To live is to suffer. To survive is to find meaning in the suffering.

–Friedrich Nietzsche

The pain of loss is like a storm that comes out of nowhere. Its urgency dominating every conversation, emotion and even the lighting in the room — your surroundings become a vignette, leaving no definite line or border, the striking intensity of pain, white hot at its center, quickly fades all else to black. When you press your hands to your face, the lament becomes a valley where only the dimmest of light sags through, glinting off salty drops of water resting in small pools.

Overcoming the loss of a loved one, or a way of life is an uphill slog through mud made of tears, brambles of emotions, and barren islands of regret. Some may take years to traverse this hinterland, others a lifetime. Unfortunately, in our lust for appropriation, we commercialized the cultivation of happiness and industrialized the eradication of sadness in our culture in ways causing many to be ill-equipped to endure the rigors of loss, the insistence of pain. The discipline of sustained effort required to achieve peace remains elusive, a climb too steep, a trail without drink, or shade. Too often we become paralyzed and forget to take into perspective the substance of our grief.

It is important to keep in mind that we do not have to overcome our condition, only to know it better. Our task is to find the few principles that will calm the anguish. We must mend what has been torn apart, make love and peace imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust. We must give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by misery. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks we take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.

It is imperative to hold fast to our convictions, even as the forces of evil puts on a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair or listen much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair.

If we are to save ourselves we must ignore our current gloomy ventures and celebrate strength and wonder. Our world is being poisoned by its misery and seems to wallow in it. It has utterly surrendered to that evil which Nietzsche called the spirit of heaviness. Let us not add to this. It is futile to weep over the moment, it is enough to labor for it.

Bad things do happen; how we respond to them defines our character and the quality of life. You can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of loss, or you can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift we have, life itself.

Step back for a moment. Remember that the history of everything in the world is waiting, wondering or dreaming and that most of time it is composed of a world when we are not here.