I have stared into the Void. That’s the best way I can describe my journey. I feel like I’m the side character in a space adventure movie that looked out into the inky blackness too long and is a bit “off” from then on. I struggle with emotional detachment from it.
I have a close friend who was in and out of mental health facilities for a long time. I was one of the few people who could get through to him, and it was partly because he could tell I had also stared into the Void and lived to tell the tale.
I bring this up because I think (and I hope) I come across as a very positive person. But sometimes that can be mistaken for superficial positivity. No, I want to be deeply, meaningfully positive. The sort of positivity one feels when a long, painful battle is almost lost but at the last moment an extra battalion joins the fight on your side and you realize you might just beat the enemy after all (think of Gandalf riding down the hillside at Helm’s Deep). That’s the sort of real, rugged, and full-hearted optimism that I strive for.
It’s a bit hard to describe the primary reasons for my psychological pain but one major component (among multiple) is a very intense, many years-long religious deconstruction I went through. Ironically, my faith (which in the end I held on to) is also the ultimate source of my hope and positivity too. Funny how that worked.
I once read of an author who described people having different sized souls. What he meant by that (if I remember, and this might be my own twist on the idea) is that, as we overcome suffering and avoid bitterness, and have the courage to still go on and help others, our souls get bigger. We are able to impact the world In bigger ways. We’re able to absorb some of the evil and darkness in the world and protect others from it. And be less impacted by it ourselves. The bigger our soul, the more we can do that, and against bigger and worse evils.
A naive view would imagine someone with a
“big” soul as being quite dour and serious.
But I think the opposite is true (ultimately).
If you truly overcome evil, you have the ability to double down on optimism. But a much realer, grounded optimism. An optimism that spent a few years in the enemy’s POW camp and knows what truly is at stake. And one that you can bring into other people’s lives and bless them with and help shoulder their burdens too. One that knows their pain firsthand. That’s what I’m fighting for.
So to the others that have stared into the Void, I see you. And let’s go out there and fight evil and bring as much light into the world that we can.