That’s just it, isn’t it?
Life, I mean. A happy sadness. A sad happiness.
As we go through life, we can’t help but feel a constant dissatisfaction with existence. Like we’ve been cheated of some elusive piece of happiness. That the heavens have reserved a slice of the cake all for themselves, and angels are delicately nibbling on the ethereal stuff with smug looks on their faces. It’s a tiny hole in our hearts. It’s a tiny niggling sense of unrest, at the back of our minds, like a bit of grit inside the fleshy mouth of an oyster; and like an oyster, over time, we envelop it in layers and layers of evanescent joys and sorrows so that we don’t have to feel it anymore. But it’s still there. Just a smoother. Softer. Less irritating.
The source of this dissatisfaction is our desire for a magnificent, spiritual wholeness and chest-splitting joy to exist. For our days to be honeyed with love and heart-tingled and pillowed clouds. Real life, no matter how much joy we try to extract from it, always falls short. Some of us hope for a grand Almighty, a grand Reason, beyond our narrow lives. Others pine and wish for another person to fill the hole in our hearts, for lips to kiss away our tears and arms to hug us from the world. In the end, however, only Death embraces us, and we stop crying on the outside.
Why are so many people attracted to magic? To fate, or destiny? Because it brings us joy. Because it makes us feel there is something bigger than ourselves. Because we want there to be crinkling, otherworldly corners at the edges of the world to make our own world, our own, often ugly world, significant and part of a more beautiful whole. Unfortunately, nothing can staunch this dissatisfaction. It pours from our lives the same way light streams from the sun.
No matter how happy we are, the happiness is always haunted by echoes: this won’t last forever, we’re all going to die, this is just an emotion and means nothing at all in the full scheme of things. Likewise, no matter how miserable we are, even if we’re so sad that the suffering seems to suffuse and poison our very veins, there’s some happiness in the sadness. Some beauty in the tragedy. Sometimes, it’s only when we’re suffering that we truly live, truly feel alive. Have you ever seen black and white photos of dead people? It’s gruesome, its sad, its macabre, but there’s a wonderful beauty in the closed shell of the eyelid, the sealed lips. An everlasting serenity. Look. That’s a human. A dead human. Look at us, in our repose upon the waters of eternity. We sleep. Same thing with misery. Perhaps that’s why crying feels so cathartic. So much more real and important than high laughter. It confirms our existence. It jogs our hearts into action, as they bleed and contract and hurt.
Even love. Love, in our society, is often seen as the panacea to all our woes, even if we don’t like to admit it and feel ourselves above such ‘silly’ daydreams. We all want to be loved. We all want to have that special someone by our side. It’s a deep-seated need, and often it feels more than purely for the sake of procreation, but transcendental. If you sit somewhere with your love, especially in nature, perhaps beneath the dappled shadows of a tree, and look into their eyes, you touch upon something pure and thrumming. Something so true it makes you want to cry. But even love has a bitterness, sweet as it can be, even when it’s going good, because love, like all things, fade. The more we love something, the more we are afraid of it ending, of it being taken away from us. When we look into the eyes of a loved one, and feel our heart balloon with overwhelming affection, we can’t help but feel the shadow that curls in the backs of our own eyes also: you will die, someday. Maybe you’ll even die before I do, and leave me shuddering on the shore alone. And then he or she smiles and asks what you’re thinking about, and you just smile, and brush it off, even though you know the shadows will come clawing out of your chest in the night and grinning at you with their fragmented teeth.
You just want to hold on to it all. We all do. We just want to hold onto our parents, our friends, our siblings, our partners, our children. Sadness and happiness are never separate because we so desperately want to keep things permanent. Stay! Please, just stay like that. Let this moment stay forever. Let time stop. Don’t go. Don’t leave. Don’t end. Our existences are transient, and we hate this. We want to last. They say everything wants to live, and that’s just another way of saying everything wants to last and matter. Living makes you matter. When you’re dead, you, yourself, don’t matter anymore. When the human race comes to an end, we won’t matter anymore. And all this fills us with anguish, darkens our happiness and tinges even our darkest moments with a flavor of inevitability, of shortness, of the sad beauty of a flower that blooms once a year and dies.
Living hurts. Hearts hurt. Hearts hurt too much because they love too much. I love too much. You love too much. We all love too much, in our own way, and though it hurts, it’s better to choose the pain rather than not live. At least, that is what we tell ourselves. There is nothing we can do. We pick the flowers, and they wilt. We hug our loved ones knowing they will die one day. We touch the world knowing our fingers will be gone soon.
And the funny thing is, sometimes joy can be so great that it’s painful. Sometimes misery can be so great that it transmutes into a kind of holy happiness. Maybe even that division, of joy seeping into grief, of grief seeping into joy, is an erroneous one. Maybe there is no such thing as joy and grief, no distinction between the two, and it’s all just one emotion, just one feeling. Maybe it’s just Life. All just being.
If that’s the case, well, then. Let us savour the bitter dregs along with honey. Let us get messy in the swamps of misery, and soar like birds in our happiness. To sit with discomfort, rather than hide from it. To feel strong when we are strong, stronger than the world. Let us feel it. Let us feel life. Feel it all. Feel it all. Just, feel. That’s the meaning of life. To be aware. To feel. To think. To experience.