Paul Tillich finds hope in The Courage to Be when he writes: “The vitality that can stand in the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning” (177).
Jean Baudrillard finds despair in The Ecstasy of Communication when he writes: “Everywhere one seeks to produce meaning, to make the world signify, to render it visible. We are not, however, in danger of lacking meaning; quite to the contrary, we are gorged with meaning and it is killing us. As more and more things have fallen into the abyss of meaning, they have retained less and less the charm of appearances” (55).
Baudrillard laments the loss of the charm of appearances in our all-too-visible, hyperreal world. Today we can’t let Nothingness be. We deny silence the right to remain silent. There once was a time, Baudrillard suggests, when the secret essence of things remained hidden, but today we’ve stripped the world of its profound illusion.
Melancholy, through writing, is Baudrillard’s last defense against madness.
Back to Tillich: “Even in the state of despair one has enough being to make despair possible” (177).
Baudrillard, in his despair, has enough being to make despair possible. The depth and vitality of his enigmatic writing invokes a silent resistance within and against the ecstasy of communication. A silent resistance destined, like all forms of (radical) thought, to fall into the abyss of meaning.
I am not a recovering melancholic. I continue to overthink.
Soren Kierkegaard: “In my great melancholy, I loved life, for I love my melancholy.”
Albert Camus: “There is no love of life without despair about life.”
Kurt Cobain: “I miss the comfort in being sad.”
Kierkegaard believed in God. Camus believed in Absurdism. Cobain believed in Nirvana.
All three, I believe, are no longer with us.
I took away three main ideas from Alina N. Feld’s brilliant analysis of depression in Melancholy and the Otherness of God.
First, philosophers from Ancient Greece to modern times have seen the Melancholic as a visionary soul vital to humanity’s recognition of its own simultaneous vulnerability and power. The Melancholic thinks and feels at a higher frequency than “normal” people. This leads to greater distress and untold suffering for the afflicted, but this pain is survivable. Those who attend to the vibrations of what today we call depression become wiser human beings.
Second, living with depression requires courage. The Depressed must feel the fear and proceed anyway. At the heart of Being lies the specter of Nothingness; the Depressed encounters Nothingness but doesn’t back away from it. There is value in appreciating the vertigo of contemplation before the abyss.
Third, in order to reach heaven one must go through hell. Depression feels like hell on earth, but its torment is far from eternal. The life of the Depressed is a spiritual journey, a path to freedom in the face of terror. There is no Resurrection without Crucifixion.