For the better part of this year I've been struggling with some pretty dark thoughts. This is nothing new as "the voices of self-doubt" have plagued and taunted me for years but, since the start of the 2019 Christmas holidays, I've been battling the ruinous conceptions that can drain a person of all joy. Some would call this "depression". Others would call it "self-loathing". I call it "hell", as it is the embodiment of society's collective expectation of that metaphysical realm. June marks the six consecutive month where I've not gone more than a handful of hours without asking myself the same question: What's the third reason?
As people around the world rang in the start of another year, I was in bed trying to come up with the reasons I should see 2021. Two answers instantly sprang to mind:
- The boy needs a father.
- Nozomi needs a friend.
Try as I might, no valid third reason could be found. None of my work is so world-changing that I need to see it through to completion. I've lost touch with the vast majority of people I've interacted with over the years. And, if that isn't enough, my primary purpose at home seems to be earning money and being told "it's never enough" while simultaneously being admonished for working so many hours. While the boy and Nozomi are incredibly important to me, has their existence become the sole reason for continuing mine? Is it enough?
As we enter into the sixth month of the year the mind has presented numerous potential answers as the third reason, but one has become a little more prominent over the weeks as I think it through: I'm not coming back.
As a young person one of the questions I often struggled with was "Why would God give us only one chance to exist given the infinite possibilities that exist in the universe?" While in my teens I would sometimes hear people say something along the lines of "We must have known each other in a previous life" and this idea started to mingle with the first. The theory, in my mind anyway, was that there were likely a finite number of souls that are reincarnated infinitely to experience everything that life has to offer. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It's after we shed our corporal form that the memories and lessons learned from all the previous lives are once again revealed to us and we can reflect with other souls on the lives we've lived. When we are ready to try again, we re-enter the world and live another life with no knowledge of the previous ones.
This idea was reinforced over the years while reading thousands of works of fiction, some of which touched on the idea of an afterlife. Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt crystallised the low-resolution concept from my mind into something a little more concrete and it has remained my admittedly selfish hope for the last two decades: we are spirits within a family unit, and we come to earth in search of each other over and over, each time with a different set of tools at our disposal and challenges to overcome.
Why wouldn't we want to come back and try our hand at life again? Why would a just God allow one soul to be born wealthy beyond comprehension and another destitute beyond reason without the promise that next time might be better?
But what if there is no "next time"? If this is the only time that we have, then what justice is there in the universe? What valid reason is there to want to reach 100 years of age and live through the loss of personal sovereignty due to the debilitations brought on by advanced age? Extending the logic, what valid reason is there to do anything that results in what can only be described as a self-inflicted prison sentence? We may use different words, like career, mortgage, or responsibility, but a chain is a chain … be it physical or otherwise.
Over the years when I've tried to talk through these ideas with people the general response has been anger. Accusations of selfishness and attempts at guilting are common and wholly ineffective. When a person is in the doldrums of darkness, no amount of name calling, guilt-tripping, or blaming will result in a positive outcome. If anything, it will only add justifications and embolden a person to carry out an action that most would find reprehensible. For me, I have my void-sent writing to help think through issues. This post has been written and re-written a hundred times this year and thousands of times in my life. I know what needs to be done and I generally know how to do it. What I ask myself now is whether three reasons are enough to maintain it? Are two? Is one?