The Other Side
By Susan Chen
I find one of my biggest obstacles when it comes to writing articles such as these, is that I never know what to write. How can I write an article that represents a certain depth of me, while also representing the totality of me, and my life’s journey? I do admit, it is something I have been putting off for a little over a week now, because I do not want to contemplate out of vain—but let us be truthful, human beings do many things out of vain, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Anyways, my intent on writing this article is not really out of vain, or maybe it is. Regardless of that, I thought it was a wonderful idea to help cultivate a community where people are able to share their stories—in abundance and in diversity. The world certainly needs more of that, and I know of no other way than the contribution of many, many single individuals, laying their foot at the same beginning—with the aim of walking towards the same end: a world where people are united as a species, rather than separated into minorities.
With my story, it is existential in nature. And I guess it briefly describes a glimpse of myself internally:
One can only imagine the weight of the world gradually taking advantage of one’s shoulders. We ask ourselves: what am I, but Sisyphus—still daring to push a boulder up the hill—all while knowing that it will fall to the bottom again. Perhaps a fair cluster of us can relate; it is thus appropriate to conclude that Sisyphus was an underdog in his later years: he really had no choice since the Gods condemned him based on his former actions.
And yet, the reality is: we are not Sisyphus. The world did not condemn us to carry its weight. Rather, the struggle became a consequence of seeing the nudity of the world — a price we end up paying at the rate of meaninglessness: nihilism.
Ever since I was a young child, I always had bright hopes for the future of all humanity. I was extremely curious about the world around me. But were we not all like that? Interestingly enough, there also lurked a faint dark, cynical side of me, that only made a potent appearance in the last few months.
I found myself whirling in a nihilistic soup—and I had no care to even vomit when I got a taste. When this occurred, I found it taxing to even investigate why my existence became so bland. But as I reflect back upon it now, it was likely that the symphony of life eventually shocked me with new sounds—and I was unable to adapt because it occurred all so quickly—I could not keep up with its intensities. The hope and love I once had for the world gradually vanished. Their figures in light became mere phantoms in the dark. I could not further distinguish their form—as they merged into the echoing abyss of nothingness, over the course of what seemed to be the duration of a night.
Weeks and months would go by—and during this time, I found myself giving up writing, reading, and teaching. I saw no point in speaking or involving myself in matters I once cared about. My goals were no longer stone—they crumbled into a mess of rocks. The flavours of my existence were all the same—and I had no interest in finding how my existence was once seasoned. Prior to being surprised by nihilism, I had developed an intellectual relationship with the concept. It sounded rather frightening, but I clearly did not have the experience to empathize with its victims. The terror that slowly fills your lungs—one is lucky enough to properly breathe.
Often, nihilism is said to be comparable to depression. And though they are similar to a slight degree, I do not regard them as equal. In theory, the two appear to be the same, but in experience, the two are arguably different. Nihilism is not binary to well-being, but rather, to individual meaning. It was this very lack that kept my Being oppressed. So where comes the ultimate solution? I wish I had the answer myself, but I don’t —because I don’t know. I never bothered to seek it because I didn’t care.
Eventually, all I could do was accept the nihilistic overcoats: I had to affirm nihilism because there was nothing else left for me to affirm. It is not to say that I beat nihilism, but it is to say that I chose not to revolt against it; it was this very beginning, that planted my recognition of choice. It made me realize a thing such as choice was still possible.
At last—the hollow clouds begin to fill their empty spaces. Thank you, self-consciousness. Like the psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote, “no tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” It would be absurd for me to say that nihilism has departed me. Though passive, I am aware of its presence. At least the next time it tries to evidently victimize me, I will have an idea of what to expect. I am prepared—for all I know, this was only a trial.