According to Kierkegaard, despair is the result of failure to be your true “self”.
The first two forms of despair introduced in “Existentialism: All That Matters” by David Cerbone are weakness and defiance.
“Kierkegaard calls the kind of despair marked by being adrift among unrealised possibilities weakness, since I long for some other way to be while feeling unable to attain it; alternatively, the feeling of being stuck can devolve into what he calls defiance, where I reject the idea of possibilities all together and wallow instead of how I actually am.”
– David Cerbone (Existentialism: All that matters – Chapter 2)
For a long time, I have dwelled on my many weaknesses and focused on how incompetent I am as a person. I always wished I was better and worked hard to be better. However, through all the trials, I started to lose faith in myself. I could not see myself becoming any better than I am. Soon enough, I started to accept it and readily accepted insults or scoldings for poor work. I felt, it was only natural. I’m incompetent after all… All I could do… was despair silently while living on doing sub-standard work.
However, there’s no way I could continue that way for long. It’s a crushing despair one would not be able to bear for a substantial period of time. Thus, I moved on to try and get my mind off my incompetence by doing trivial and small tasks that could be completed easily even by me. It kept my days busy and I felt fulfilled living each day. Yet… as I was reading “Existentialism: All that matters”, I came across this passage.
“To be consumed by ‘errands’ is to lack faith in anything ultimate; if I am just busy being busy, there is nothing really that my life is all about. I may feel like I always have something to do and somewhere to be, but all of this scurrying about does not add up to anything or make a unified whole. Whether I feel it particularly or not, in leading such a life I am mired in despair.”
– David Cerbone
This made me realise something I probably knew subconsciously for a long time. Every time I took up a new task or started doing something “for fun”, I was simply looking for a way to escape from my weakness and defiance. I just wanted to not have to think about who I am. I just wanted to live without dwelling on complicated things like who I am as a person and what my worth or purpose on earth is. I guess you could say, I gave up on finding a reason a long time ago. As a result, I simply find things to fill my time day after day. Be it simple things like just watching anime, reading manga, writing, editing, eating, walking or sleeping. I just want to fill up the time that I have on this world. There’s no ultimate purpose in anything I’m doing. I just do not want to feel the despair of not being the person I wish I was.
However, my escape is nothing but temporary and fragile. The moment I have a time of rest, I end up thinking about all my flaws and incompetencies. I end up feeling empty and without purpose all over again.
To truly overcome despair, I would have to take a different approach.
An approach in which I’m not running away from my despair which I could never outrun. An approach that makes me confront the roots of my despair head on…
Definitely not something simple, but definitely something that must be done.
Do I have what it takes?
I do not know, all I can do is try.
Okay, to be completely honest, watching anime, reading manga, writing and editing are things I started in hopes of creating an identity for myself. Before any of those things, there was really nothing that interested me. Thus, I felt like I was lacking as an individual for not having any interests and decided to try them out since they at least got my attention.
This post is mostly just to share what I’ve read from “Existentialism: All that matters” by David Cerbone because a lot of the content in the book really spoke to me and I really felt the urge to share them. If you’re interested in reading the book for yourself, simply click here. In the book, he also describes how you should/could confront your despair and overcome it to becoming a “self”.