I’m feeling rather gloomy and Eeyoreish this morning. When I feel like this I’m unwilling to foist my Eeyoreishness onto others, because I know what that feels like and it ain’t pretty, so instead I thought, what better time to compose a cheerful blog post? Because I know that being cheerful outwardly can lead to feeling cheerful inside. However, before I begin smiling, this requires a caveat. I think there’s something deeply wrong with enforced cheerfulness: as I said before in the post about Dismaland:
enforced ‘happiness’ can be terrible for your mental health because it’s not real. Before you can begin to be happy you first have to acknowledge your sadness or depression or pain or gloom: otherwise that’s called denial.
But once you’ve done that; once you’ve acknowledged the pain and sadness, there is much to be said for a cheerfulness which is a considered choice: one which looks at the awfulness of a world where Brexit threatens to smash up just about everything; a world where Trump is still President and where Brazilians have just elected (albeit by a narrow margin) a possibly even more repellent leader than DT and where just about the nicest, most generous football club owner ever has just been killed in a helicopter crash:
image removed on request
What sort of a world is this? It’s a bloody awful one. So give me my parachute because I want to bail out right now. I don’t want to be here in this place where everywhere you turn there are more and more reasons for despair. I want to leave, thank you very much.
So, having said all that (and taken cognisance of the fact that there’s nowhere else to go*) you can do one of two things: despair or hope. And I choose hope. ‘Strong men know not despair, Arjuna,’ says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (let’s be generous and take ‘men’ as including women) and so I choose hope, even in the midst of despair. Even in the depths of Dante’s hell there is, as Dorothy L Sayers points out, a tra-la of happiness:
Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.
Literature is full of such examples: in the land of the dead where there is no hope at all, Lyra refuses to accept the reality she is presented with, insisting instead on finding a way out:
and, terrible though the Inferno is, Dante eventually finds a way through to Purgatory
As for me, when I feel despair I think of a river. No matter what obstacles a river faces, whether rock or stone or earth or deep chasms, it will find a way through. It may take time and persistence but the steady drip-drip, the insistent push of water will in the end break down the hardest rock. Even dams need an outlet – and constant maintenance.
So be the river. Find a way through, not a way out.
* without either committing suicide or trying to live on Mars, neither of which appeal