Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Existential Anxiety

Reading fiction as a distraction from our current depressing Situation was working pretty well for me until, at 2AM, I encountered this passage from Keiichiro Hirano's novel, A Man:

...Kido saw his life as composed of several stages linked together by a shared name, with himself as their culmination.  A significant portion of the life given continuity by the label "Akiro Kido" that had once lain ahead had already been relegated to the past, and so his identity was in large part already determined.  Of course there might have been other paths he could have taken and therefore other people he might have been.  Perhaps an infinite number.  It was in the light of such considerations that he confronted his former question anew.  The problem was not who he was in the present but who he's been in the past, and the solution he sought was no longer supposed to help him live but to help him figure out what sort of person to die as.

Hirano wrote in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Fukushima — an event just as arbitrary and unforeseen as a pandemic, and just as likely to provoke a little existential anxiety.  It's a common human condition, albeit most humans can't put a name to it when they feel it.  We respond by immersing ourselves in the present, focusing on some current, less transcendental outrage.

That's why I'm having a problem this time around: I seem to be suffering from outrage fatigue.  I've been outraged so often recently that it's become hard to work up a good surge of anger anymore.  My head has been bombarded by the corruption and the inequalities and the classism and the blatant lies and the manipulations of reality.  Where the hell is that revolution I wanted fifty years ago, and that I never stopped wanting?

There.  That feels much better.  I'm back! :)

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