“When you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” – Nietzsche
Reality hits you at unexpected times.
It comes when you need it the least and it isn’t there when you need it the most.
It’s as if it wants you to lose the game. That game is life, of course.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and he said something that struck me.
“Everyone has something that they’re trying to look away from in the hope that it’ll disappear”.
Fuck. That one got me right in the feels. This denial, this “hush hush” mentality, it doesn’t make things go away. Often times, neglect makes them harder to avoid. When you leave things “up to chance”, it most likely will not go your way. I know that. You know that.
But why do we do it? People leave a lot of things up to chance because we’re scared. I’m scared. You’re scared. We’re all scared. Scared of what?
Scared of looking into the abyss. We’re scared of staring that thing down and seeing it for what it truly is.“Everyone has something that they're trying to look away from in the hope that it'll disappear”. Click To Tweet
What is “the abyss”?
The quote mentioned at the beginning of this post is from Frederich Nietzsche, one of the best philosophers…ever. That quote has been interpreted many different ways but I’ve always seen it as seeing the unfathomable.
The abyss is something that cannot be put into words it can only be observed. It is something you can only feel. It is a feeling of existential emptiness. The best way I can put it is: the feeling that you’ve been running and you can’t run away anymore.
A person’s “void” or “abyss” often arises from neglect of certain things. But it can also be the stark reality that things don’t happen the way you want them to many times.
The abyss is the exhausted sigh of a single parent who steps on the bus after her 10 hour shift.
The abyss is the emotional pain a person feels after their significant other makes a snide remark on something they’re wearing.
The abyss is the business owner who’s company disintegrates after he’s sacrificed everything for it for 10 years.
The abyss is the feeling of getting a C on that test you studied long and hard for, feeling deep down inside like your best wasn’t enough.
The abyss is the real possibility of being evicted from your apartment because your rent was late. Again.
I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. Some of us stare right at it, some of us look away with tightly shut eyes, some of us even jump into it never to be seen again.
It is often too much to take, so some of us spend our entire lives in avoidance of it.
Drugs, alcohol, general distractions of the day. Anything…to just let us forget and deny.
I’ve been there. It works for a while. Until it doesn’t.
Then you need more and more and more until it gets to a point where avoidance becomes unsustainable.
Then you shatter like a teacup on concrete.
Don’t try and beat it
When you try and “game the system” of life and reality, it is a game that you will lose every time. Just as the sun sets in the evening, it is only a matter of time until it rises in the morning.
So what do we do now?
Simple. Face whatever it is that’s eating you. Face whatever it is that’s causing a void in your life. Embrace the feeling. Accept it.
Life can’t be all sunshine and roses. There will be up days and there will be days that you’ll be down with a straight up capital D. That’s why it’s beneficial to develop a Stoic mindset.
But let me ask this… What would happiness be without sorrow? It wouldn’t be happiness. It would be something else entirely. You need the opposite of a thing in order for it to be defined. We would not know happiness without sorrow. We would not know life without death. It’s some weird yin and yang thing in a sense.
But you can rise above it.
I hate to use the word “coping” because it implies that you just “maintaining” in a sense. But yes… you can “cope with this”. I believe that you can use this to your “advantage” so to speak.
When you get a solid grasp of what reality is, you can conform yourself to it and make the best out of this life you can. To me, “making the best out of this life” is helping others in any way, shape, or form possible. It’s not about a massive money grab (though that can help in some ways) and it’s not about shitting on other people.
But before you can help others, you need to help yourself. You need to confront your own abyss.
- What’s got you down these days?
- What are you trying to avoid in the hope that it will go away?
- Do these things come from outside yourself or are they self-generated?
Take a good inventory of yourself. Ask yourself what’s really up. What have you been avoiding for weeks, months, or even years?
Maybe you need to have a talk with a friend of yours that you have a problem.
Maybe you need to confront a parent about a certain issue you have with them.
Whatever it is, you need to do it because the inevitable fact remains… you are still going to die.
So get on with it. You might as well live as much of your life in the light as you can and try to make your abyss just a bit smaller in the process.