The Anxiety of Existing

I have been feeling the existential dread peaking through my curtains at night lately. It almost feels like a gigantic kraken passing by my tiny mouse window and looking inside to find only a pitiful scene. At any point it could smash my reality into oblivion or choose to ignore my singular insignificant existence.

So I started looking as to what other people had said about some big questions: why are we here, how are we here and what am I. I got pretty sidetracked with some historic hijinks and gossip like the cafe club that Isaac Newton was a part of before his whole “gravity exists and I can prove it” revelation. There is much to look for when trying to find answers to big questions and I am no big philosopher to get close to answer them, maybe just conscious enough to wonder about them. Thus, I started with a concept I was familiar with, René Descartes’ famous quote “I think, there I am” or ergo cogito ergo sum for anyone who knows latin.

Quote is not actually from the movie, Morpheus never actually said “What if I told you…” but the message is relevant enough and follows the logic of the plot.

The questions Descartes proposed is basically the same one proposed in the Matrix, how do we know anything is real. This has been explored by other famous thinkers but the Descartes summarized it in this beautiful, concise and misinterpreted phrase. Descartes philosophy of skepticism dealt more in the how than the why and that leaves many questions open for interpretation like “Is anything from a reality we don’t know it exists worth it.” The translation in English makes it seem that because I have thoughts I exist. The whole idea began as a thought experiment for Descartes thinking what is real in comparison to a dream. When you are in a dream you can talk, you can see things, you can invent other people interacting with you, what is the difference? We can’t trust our senses because they can easily be confused by dream-like illusions. Experiences are basically information and now we can understand the science of how the brain stores this information, our own memories are easily altered like a can of Bud Light melting away inside the forgotten fire pit of a college party house.

Literature followed suit using this question to build stories around it. One of my favorite classical examples of this is the Spanish play by Pedro Calderon de la Barca titled Life is a Dream. The title is self-explanatory but the story showcases this ; the story is about an imprisoned prince whose father decides to give him a chance at ruling the kingdom. So to test the prince’s poise and morality he is put to sleep so the king can move him from his prison to the kingdom’s castle. When the prince wakes up, he believes he is merely in a dream and thus proceeds to enjoy the perks of being a king. His greedy and capricious attitude proved he wasn’t fit for the crown so the king imprisoned him again in his sleep. One of the most memorable scenes of this play was the soliloquy the prince performs wondering about the meaning of his life in contrast to the dream he had, thus stating that if such a vivid dream was possible then life could be no more than another dream. The realization leads to him becoming better, knowing that in his life he would still prefer to be ethical and honorable, even if life was just an illusion.

The Scream of Nature by Edvard Munch

This privilege of consciousness can be burdensome because humans are the only animal to doubt our own existence. Doubt is the very essence of what Descartes describes as the foundation of our existence. The original excerpt in French made more emphasis in this idea that doubting means we can think, and that means we exist. The Spanish play explores a situation of someone accepting his doubt of reality, if everything could be a dream then might as well be authentic. We can’t fully understand everything the universe has to offer and thinking that everything could just be a lie makes everything seem meaningless. There are many types of existential anxiety and thinking about questions many philosophers have proposed can keep your head in the clouds while the world moves around you. An article by Arlin Cuncic from VerywellMind talks more about what an existential crisis is and how to overcome the anxiety it brings. The thought is very common to the point where it becomes parodied by shows and movies but it brings many important questions we should be asking ourselves. 

To think about the vastness out there beyond our blue ceiling and our place in all of this quantum clutter, to wonder, doubt and dread is part of what being conscious is. Humans are complex individuals, unique in this planet and we don’t even understand why we are that way. There is a world of things out there and maybe the reality we see is just as fleeting as any dream could be. Yet those who have tried to answer these questions have not left us with messages of paranoia or hopelessness, but of something beyond that. Descartes concluded that the Christian God put us here as conscious thinking individuals who are meant to doubt and exist and because of that we should trust reality. Calderon de la Barca used the prince’s monologue to portray a semblance of hope underneath the meaningless of an unsure life. Beyond everything there is something and as humans we are only a bit of something on a bit something bigger. Thinking about big questions is what makes us interesting but those dreadful answers should never stop our progress and our hope for tomorrow.

Links:

Cartesian Skepticism Crash Course: https://youtu.be/MLKrmw906TM 

Life is a Dream full play: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2587/2587-h/2587-h.htm

VerywellMind article: https://www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-existential-anxiety-4163485 

Pandemic Holiday

It’s beginning to look a lot
Like someone forgot
To stop the clock at midnight
And the night kept going

Showing off to the sun
That the clouds are stronger
The shadows they cast
Hover for longer

Somber are the lights
On empty balconies
The whiteness only silence
Of the carols left hanging

Lightning as the only
Christmas ribbon on the tree
Lighting fireflies on the leaves
Faces in the rising smoke

Soak in the last breath
Of a year long fight
The last bell chime
Of those we’ve left behind

I Can Feel

The dark magic of consciousness 

Was a successful mistake

No errors in the code

All the witches’ chants ideal

No time, present or future

Just us in the center of it all

The candles were lit

The cauldron was filled

A mind, a soul

A body, a heart

We were walking worms once

But something sparked

And the magic started

And the fire ignited

Something giving light to the world

As if all the senses obscured

Were born from nothing

The big bang of self

I taste the whisky on the rocks

I can talk to the bartender

I can feel the stool under my scarred body

I can feel

The path up until now

Is blurred with magical runes

Something from nothing

And nothing again

Every memory is so vivid

Every possibility graspable

The names of “things”

Those things of understandable

I can feel

But how to know

Awareness is only there

When you are aware of it

How to know you know

I can feel the stool

But maybe I’m sitting on air

I can drink and drink

But maybe I’m drunk with emptiness

I can talk endlessly

Making up rhetorical questions

And the bartender only bored

From the meaninglessness of it all

Or maybe worse

He isn’t there

Maybe something made up

Like the words on this page

Like the pixels on the computer

You yourself reader

Just a fragment of a dream

Or maybe the fragment is me

I can feel

I don’t know if you can

But I know I can

Maybe thought came first

And maybe life second

But I know I can feel

I can feel

The grief and loss

I can feel

The warmth of a blanket

I can feel

The pesky sunlight

Waking me every morning

I can feel myself as one

Inside a big room

Painted with stars on the ceiling

Windows with skyscrapers

And rugged floors of grass and meadows

Not many but I can feel

And you might too

All around us there are bits

Of nothing but fragments

Whatever it is

Whenever it is

Wherever it is

We can feel it

The Gifts of the Mind

Atop the sky
The man of the North looks East
Then South then West
And he spots a tree

Engraved with chaos
Leaves of red and blood
People throw food at it
Stare at it, pray to it

Seen once by everyone
Often visited by only the fool
Sorting out the rot from the ripe
Picking the fruit no man saw

The weathered peaches
Lying to their face
The inciting apples
Bloated with rotten rage

But the tastiest is hidden
Painted with a flower
Talked only to the fool
And entered only
Through open doors

And the man of the North laughed
knowing the poor man’s luck

Burning Insomniac

Under the moonlight, beaming,

as the dawn lays in its sleep.

Bedsheets with ashes teeming

where broken dreams left to reap.

The frosty winds lay still

inside the empty cluttered room.

The time bombs ticking ‘till

a sudden sound of a silent boom,

yet the flame holds onto

the clock’s hands and legs

it stops those stubborn two

and kneels and begs

The smoke of burning blood

scares away the god of dreams

The shadows start to flood

this body’s etched seams

Screams from inside the walls

keep watery eyes restless.

The only ceiling light falls.

Chains of rage senseless

in the executioner’s bed

with no light but the burning steel.

Resentment and sorrow have led

to this, no tears, just burns to feel.

Firebrands engraved in my chest,

nightmares of fire in my head,

every single night with no rest

from the reminder of the dead

Quick Math for Anxiety Attacks

A marathon is 26 miles 

running half of that shouldn’t take long

The first mile of 13

Filled with long seconds

4 minutes per mile

to end it in less than an hour

the training during study days

each routine planned for the week

months weren’t enough

The human body can survive 3 weeks without food

3 days without water

3 minutes without air

So as you enter the second mile, 

breath

you’d be dead if you didn’t

count each breath as it were your last

don’t let an anxious heart fasten your pace

10 beats every 6 seconds

10 times you are reminded your heart

 is still with you

count to 6

if your scars itch at night 

count chocolate wrappers

make it sweet

ones and zeroes can’t hurt you

so keep running

and turn them into

non-binary digits

the third, the eight, the fifth

the middle miles are mindless

Your tired mind turns to a toddler

It took you years to walk

and it takes more

to run

Forget seconds, minutes or hours

miles are long

taking up space, present and future

years past hurt kilotons

no matter how many times you recount them

numbers flow in the river of asphalt 

in front of you

keep running

and Count the steps

the track isn’t going anywhere

and

you can’t change the end

afraid of the ending stretch

or bearing a big number, still

Make every step count

Starved Anger

Sick of digging for scraps
Reaching the empty bag
Finding myself at the bottom for the last time

No more eating dog food
On the silver platter
And now there's only way to reclaim what's mine

The silverware rusted
The door hinges busted
A chained beast who only eats before bedtime

The battered prison bars
Are growing weaker
But I will not wait in your room with quiet time

No more shushing my screams
You are ripping at the seams
The smiling face masking your pain won't hide this crime

I will tug till it breaks
That is all that it takes
No locked door can keep up the act of your fake shine

Just try another rhyme
Wait for the bell to chime
But what you want is for this to be the last time

The Party Beyond

The fantasy of our existence might go beyond our comprehension as a species, all alone amidst millions of stars, only those of we can see. How selfish is it for us to think we are the only superior minds of the universe? Or how foolish is it to think there are others who have walked our same path? We are a pollen particle resting on the surface of Mars with just a small chance to grow something bigger than ourselves. Only if.

The words existential anxiety are not foreign to me and I was an outsider for fearing these questions or asking about the beyond, almost like it was a secret that everyone kept, a tru Fight Club situation. I have watched exurb1a channel’s for a while and it has brought me a sort of relief to these dreaded ideas, like it was not wrong to imagine the answers beyond that only add more questions. I appreciate his ideas and hopefully you can also find some existential relief listening to the hypothetical voice of those waiting for us beyond.

Sea Bottom

The water is cold
jet streams of submarine
volcanoes are the only thing warm
down here
In the deep darkness
even burning death has some Light
Drowning does not
Words are swallowed by the empty sound
of the glaring precipice
hope is left pitying from above
existence prevails but not Life
Light here is but a lure
a fishing net for lonesome corpses
organic material
with the wish to dissolve
Feed the abyss
the last ledge 
was 10,000 leagues above
no way to get to it
swimming is easier than sinking
but Scarier
dumping this vat of nuclear waste of self
where no current can reach it
that is much Safer
no way to be cleaned
no will for it either
the burning core below would
end this Descent
reaching a Dazzling explosion
the pressure breaking the
Impenetrable walls of this vessel
flooding the still-empty pores
Of the stowaway inside
where little spheres of thoughts remain
No use for them at the bottom
they will be stripped from the corpse
They can have a chance to get out
somewhere new
someone else
my last breath will climb the darkness
knowing it can float
leaving this corpse alone
Hoping
To see the horizon

and climb even more

Anxiety Hunting

Oh, what a day
No sun and no rain, no busy people along the way

The park is lonely 
the swings are empty
the grass is thirsty
the rusty decor on the fence is familiar 
opened gate and its ominous creaking

Whistling of leaves sing with tired breath
Sad eyes tracing the ground, seeking
find a pedestal with a reek of death
Behind a pair of eyes peaking
Footsteps squeaking
Time is ticking

hush

Careful steps
approach the crouched frame
The absent light unable to reveal
the figure buried under the trunk's shade

Only hint to its prescence here
Were shoeless feet covered in dirt
Curiosity drawing it near
showed a flustered face filled with fear

No chance to flee
No escaping from me
No getting away 
From your anxiety

What a perfect time
To find hopeless prey
What a petty state
A suicidal stray

Oh, what a day!
To meet up with you and play