Desire & Loathing

5 Jun 2022

Sofia, Bulgaria

by Matthew Eric Bassett

Sometimes I work out for hours without drinking any water.
I feel just fine and so I forget.
And when I'm done I take that first sip and realize how dehydrated I am.

I'm sad and depressed most of the time.
It's normal, I learn to function just fine so I forget.
Life is sad and depressing, and then you die.
There's good money to be made in convincing you that it's not so sad and depressing.
We end up working long hours to make enough money to buy those arguments.
I try but I can never re-create those arguments on my own.
And that fact, too, is sad and depressing.

The films, the books, the music, all the media that connect to me, they all succeed in connecting with me because they don't avoid the fact that life is sad and depressing.
Most of them celebrate it, turning it into some sort of party.
Eventually I get bored of the party.
But the art that I don't get bored of never tries to celebrate it.
They try to resolve all that sadness and depression to get to somewhere hopeful and beautiful.
And that beauty chiefly comes from the fact that it started out so sad and depressing.

Sometimes you feel that connection with another person and its like drinking water - you didn't realize you were dehydrated.
Then you see it everywhere - a father playing with his child, a couple holding hands, a group of friends laughing together.
It's hopeful and beautiful, and a persuasive argument to convince me that life isn't so sad and depressing.
I envy it and desire it, but I cannot re-create it on my own.

Every time I try I end up with what I feel is a shallow mockery of the original thing.
I have in my memory an experience I've never had, of some platonic ideal of a connection with someone that I cannot bring into the physical world.
Maybe I'm just a drug addict chasing my first high.
Before too long, every new connection just grosses me out - I get disgusted with how transactional, or how forced, or how inauthentic, or how superficial it is.

So that desire for a connection quickly turns into disgust for one, and I feel like a villain from some fantasy:
both desiring and loathing a connection, and bringing ruin to everything that might produce it.
Until in the end, at my uttermost famine and rage, I ruin myself as well.

Except I won't.
Because I'm not a villain and this isn't fantasy.
And though I may fancy myself to be some tragic hero, I do not have any flaws nearly so fatal.
But like those tragic heroes I have a thousand small opportunities to make someone laugh or feel better or brighten someone's day.
And maybe if I remember to do that I can succeed in making my own argument that life isn't so sad and depressing, that it's actually hopeful and beautiful, at least for that moment.