josiah jennings

(Sean Zevran)

With All the Tortures of Hell

Throughout my life I have always been able to figuratively charm the panties off a nun, so to speak, but felt as if I relate to hardly anyone at all. Given everything I have accomplished (and before this is interpreted as bragging, I mean relative to where I began in life and what I have endured to get where I am today), one might surmise I am adept at making meaningful connections. Unfortunately, many if not all of my social relations leave me feeling drained and more alone than does being a hermit.

While putting myself ‘out there’ beyond my comfort zone and broadening my social circle may seem the obvious solution, trust me when I say I have done this many times. I could not have accomplished all that I have without in fact doing so, hence why I would think I would be better at forging more meaningful connections by now. It is a Catch-22, however, in that the more I put myself out there and expand my social network, the more alone I feel. I am tired.

Am I the problem? I must be the problem. But then I look at the state of the world and realize that if I am indeed the problem, I am certainly not the only problem, and by far not the worst problem. Humanity leaves little to be desired, in my opinion. That to which we ascribe the most value seems to be our ideals, but these are abstract social constructs that, without the context of the social, are utterly meaningless. But what of it when the social breaks down, if only in one’s own eyes? What if, as I said, society leaves little to be desired?

Naturally, our ideals follow suit. One cannot exist without the other; that’s not the kind of creatures we are. We yearn for context. We yearn for purpose. Divorce us from context, and we are divorced from purpose. This is because our ideals are a product of our relationship with the world. Moreover, the world is as it is and largely beyond our control, and so that in which we are left to find meaning is our relationship with others. Otherwise, what does it mean to exist, particularly as a human? You cannot divorce a human from humanity and expect our ideals in relation to humanity to remain intact.

I have been cognitively divorced from humanity for a very long time now—always an outsider, always drifting, always observing. Every accomplishment or experience has occurred mostly by accident. As The Joker in the 2008 Warner Bros. Pictures film, “The Dark Knight,” said, “I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!” So often have I caught the car and found the experience unfulfilling, whatever enjoyment to be had, fleeting. The only constant seems to be humanity’s terribleness, its greed, its destruction, its ignorance, its laziness, its beliefs in the ridiculous and superficial. There is so little to be desired because humanity is so predictable. It is an agonizing prison, one I endure out of spite, for it is such that:

“…in spite of or in defiance of the whole of existence he wills to be himself with it, to take it along, almost defying his torment. For to hope in the possibility of help, not to speak of help by virtue of the absurd, that for God all things are possible—no, that he will not do. And as for seeking help from any other—no, that he will not do for all the world; rather than seek help he would prefer to be himself—with all the tortures of hell, if so it must be.”

– Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death (1849)

Alas, advice, sympathy, or platitudes are neither welcome nor warranted and, in all honesty, will probably be met with hostility, for I choose rebellion against the Absurd. I recognize the human condition for what it is and I endure rather than succumb to the delusion that any of this is meaningful. Consequently, I am always able to adapt and overcome, seeing myself as both hero and villain, motivated by a passionate, burning hatred of this entire existential construct. Here’s to 2024. May we each continue to endure in our own way.

4 responses to “With All the Tortures of Hell”

  1. Not that you need do, but, sharing much of your existential hopelessness over humanity’s terribleness, I find comfort in the writings of both Evelyn Waugh and E. M. Forster.

    “How can he be unhappy when he is strong and alive? And think how he has been brought up—free from all the superstition and ignorance that lead men to hate one another in the name of God. With such an education as that, I thought he was bound to grow up happy.” — E. M. Forster, A Room With a View

    “… To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.” ― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

  2. You are extremely talented writer, I have enjoyed reading your excerpts here and on Twitter. You are beyond expectations and I look forward to reading more your insightful words.

  3. I connected with this, through the lens of my life, as if it were my own stiry written out. Thank you.

  4. I agree with your basic sentiment, however I have hope. I am a loner and have long been ostracized, but with hope I carry on seeking a brighter future. Never lose your hope. I would recommend you to study John Adams and John Quincy Adams. They were both cynical, yet found hope and family through it all. Their letters still survive and you can read them online or find a book about them. Live and thrive in happiness Josiah despite it all.

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