It’s our sinking sense of helplessness which binds us together as human beings. Helplessness is a high-minded, cerebral sense of despondency that separates us from the primitive entrapped fear of a hunted deer.
Helplessness is deeply mystical. It strikes our soul cold. This stabbing sense of helplessness.
How we respond and deal with helplessness is what differentiates us.
Mankind’s most common method to cope with helplessness is religion. Helplessness is not thoroughly extinguished. It can never be extinguished for we can never be sure of anything with absolute certainty. There are unknowns that will die with us, and thus, there is helplessness that will die with us. We disguise helplessness with flowery beliefs and dogma. A religious person who believes in his respective deity will still succumb to helplessness but he will bury it beneath comforting strata of faith and worship. Helplessness is not purged, it is ameliorated and the tools we use to this end are what makes me ME and you YOU. The religious man is adept at displacing his sense of helplessness onto an omnipotent fantasy by proxy, a miraculous being who can the absorb and neutralize the helplessness with scriptures of immortality which lend dogmatic succor. The religious man finds that helplessness does not sting as much when there is a god who will explain its eternal mysteries within the context of spells and commandments.
There are other secular routes we have traveled to deal with our sense of helplessness, some harmless, some not. However, the common denominator they share is that they allow us to fixate upon red herring activities or mental excursions which cleverly masquerade helplessness. They distract us from the fear and the ubiquitous void that threatens to swallow us.
Helplessness is the recognition that our existence is trivial and inconsequential. It is the realization that we control little, and if allowed to consume us without a counteracting force (ie, religion or drugs), will lead to varying states of unhappiness.
I stumbled upon the subject of happiness on Dalrock by way of Ulysses (ah, the joys of linking!). In his post, Dalrock linked to a recent Dennis Prager article entitled “Happiness Is a Moral Obligation”. In his essay Prager essentially makes the analogy between happiness and deodorant while spinning a “moral of the story” that happiness, like other forms of communal cooperation and civilized existence, must be forced and consciously enacted even if they are not present in one’s character. Even a demagogic broken record like Prager is right once in a while, and this is one of those instances where I agree with his message. I don’t believe there is anything moral about happiness, but it is a lofty and mindful sense of existence which we must strive to achieve.
I was slightly puzzled about Prager’s motives. Since when did he get into the “happy” business? It was certainly a bizarre detour for the Jewish Neo-Con ideologue from Southern California. Further consideration shaped the notion that I outlined at the beginning of this post. The concept of happiness as a moral obligation is code for Judeo-Christian devotion and surrender. It is code for what it sees as the only way of surmounting the misery of human helplessness. It certainly makes sense that a Christian sympathizer like Prager would laud an intrinsic sense of happiness which simply doubles as a relinquishment of helplessness to the comforting hands of god. I believe that devout Christians truly are happy people for they have buried all helplessness and doubt within the shrouded catacombs of their faith. It is this conception of religious faith as a counterbalance to the self-destructive force of helplessness that Prager is applauding.
However, Leo Tolstoy was wrong. There are many routes to happiness.
Reading about all this happiness alerted me to the possibility that I may portray an aura of unhappiness on this blog. I simply don’t know if I do, but viewing it from afar, within the context of a happy/unhappy duality, I can very well imagine some might think I’m a miserable person. I am not. I am very happy. I am a persistent and misanthropic cynic, however, but these are not necessarily traits that are strictly congruent with unhappiness. My path out of unhappiness is my ability to handle helplessness in all its unpleasant forms. Something that must be internalized. All unhappy people I know (and I know many) share one commonality: a deep inability to control or deal with innate helplessness. Helplessness is at the root of their misery. Whether it’s helplessness of the vast existential sort (“life sucks”), or helplessness of the mundane, immediate sense (“my life sucks”), there is still a quality of humanism about unhappiness that perturbs religionists and Prager is addressing this with his sophomoric rantings about contrived joy. To be unhappy is to flaunt dogmatic doubt. Prager is telling us to Believe, and in this we will find bliss and the ability to fend off helplessness.
The third path is to confront helplessness head on.
Embrace it but do not kiss it or become attached to it. Let it linger at the fringes of your existence. Internalize it but contain it and do not ever let it metastasize. Bolster the immunity that keeps your sense of helplessness at bay so it can be subdued immediately if it acts up. This is the hard work that Prager insinuates. Religious belief is not hard work. It is lazy as its polar opposite sense of despair and misery.
Sloth is visible on both sides of the happy/unhappy spectrum, and in the middle is where the exertion truly lies. Fighting the enemy directly. The preponderance of unhappiness merely speaks to the futility of religion and to the dearth of sincere worship in our world.