The Exquisite Anguish of Being…

4 Sep

I have always written about fire – it fascinates me. Not the physicality of it, but the idea, the metaphor; for what are we without illumination? Yet, what is illumination without the danger of destruction? The pain of truly seeing? The ash it leaves behind? And who are we without our desire for warmth and consumption? Are we to arise again and again to both spark and destroy?

These are the questions that encircle my mind and frame my life, and the conclusions that I have come to regarding human nature often fuel my choices. That I believe we are both our greatest illumination and destruction; that we are born to die, and that it is the fearless act of living that truly matters.

Recently, I came across a quote of Albert Camus from ‘The Sea Close By’ that captured me because I thought it so beautifully illustrated, as what he coined, “the anguish of being,” or the duality of being – the illumination and the it leaves behind.

“Space and silence weigh equally upon the heart. A sudden love, a great work, a decisive act, a thought that transfigures,all these at certain moments bring the same unbearable anxiety, quickened with an irresistible charm. Living like this, in the delicious anguish of being, in exquisite proximity to a danger whose name we do not know, is this the same as rushing to your doom? Once again, without respite, let us race to our destruction. I have always felt I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness,”

I am happy to be stuck underneath this dense (almost unbearably heavy) quote for I believe it is saying that what we yearn for, what makes us feel most alive is also our greatest fear; that our triumphs, our loves, our most meaningful decisions are what we are afraid to lose – and loss is the inevitability of life.

For a “royal happiness” is a happiness that invites envy, and the cliche that, “there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” also means there is always a tunnel beyond the light.

Yet, what is life without an end? It would be a life without, “irresistible charms” because we’d be weighed down with the knowledge that everything would go on and on, so nothing could truly be appreciated. It is living on this edge of doom, the risks, the tingling fears that make us feel truly alive.

What is the point of our choices if we didn’t live with the, “danger whose name we do not know?” To me, we know the danger is our finite time, and yet the length cannot be named.

So the, “race to our destruction,” is living fully, “on the high seas,” which will rise and fall at will for we do not always know the consequences of our choices. Life can only be lived this way if one is striving for a “royal happiness,” which most are afraid to reach for because it is a journey across a choppy sea – full of risk and loss.

But the consequences of living otherwise is often a protective numbing darkness that alienates one from their own feelings and possibilities.

This is why I’m drawn to the fire in all things, and why at times I throw it all in and let it burn – for I want to be taken with the swell, the up/the down, the flame and ash, the beginning/the end, and the anguish of being the in-between.

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