What is the depth of hopelessness?
Sometimes I wonder who I would be if Philando Castile had not been shot in cold blood by a man masquerading behind the “authority” of a uniform. Would I be willing to subscribe to the narrative that “Love [will] trump hate?” in spite of his senselessly loving fan base whose unfounded love turns to hate for the supposed enemies of their idol? Would I, perhaps, have justified a way for me to stay in academia – a place teeming with the racist, sexist, homophobic, eugenicist logics that we all toss aside easily, as though those logics bore no consequences in our own lives today. As though the ivory tower were not the place where these logics could be venerated without consequence by people whose actions and rhetoric could not truly be sanctioned.
As though those logics were distant enough to be considered a nostalgic memory to be learned from, rather than the blade which laid waste to the skin on my inner thighs, that flayed my sanity to pieces in a dream the night before and picked at the pieces which could be commodified.
I tell myself often, since Trump was officially instated in power, but before that if I am being honest, that the hopelessness that causes my body language to transform me into a hissing snake when others approach, is not truly hopelessness by the will to change. It is not negative, I tell myself.
…the hopelessness that causes me body language to transform my into a hissing snake when others approach, is not truly hopelessness by the will to change…
I suppose there is also hope in the idea that one has not lost all possible avenues of hope, even if the hope in our current path was lost.
I wonder if this is another tall tale I tell myself to justify my willful immobility in a time when war seems more and more the likely future with every new possible, every new vestige of white supremacy and white fear reinstated at the policy level. Where is my head now? Where is my heart now?
Every day I feel is another repeat of a cycle. I fight for my sanity – to re-establish some sort of normal, a foundation in my mind that I can stand on, that even when I am cornered, I at least know that when struck I will fall onto solid ground. So that I don’t have to also wonder where to re-establish my footing. Then there is that part of me, the part which is also me, fighting, which fights against this. Which rebels against the formation of a ground which is not so solid at all. A principle, perhaps, that I lived by without knowing it. When the entire building is rotten from foundation to ceiling, even the floorboards must be shorn away.
When the entire building is rotten from foundation to ceiling, even the floorboards must be shorn away.
The culpability which is mine in the suffering of human beings on a massive scale, my consumerism, my US citizenship – which, being black, is precarious as is – my willingness to isolate myself from the reality which says that slavery has always endured because of those who were “neutral” in the face of clear transgressions against everyone, around the world and in my own community. My consumption of that which is the result of the suffering of my own community.
And I fight myself. Again. Again. And then, again.
What is it, to be at the bottom of hopelessness? What, to realize that there is something even worse that lies beneath it?
I often described my depression as feeling like the summer days when the children run to jump in the pool, sink like spring blossom petals littering themselves on the pavement beneath, only to swim quickly to the side of the pool, raise themselves up, and run to the diving board to jump in again. Only slower, as though someone who was not me, was savoring my own experience against my will.
…like spring blossom petals littering themselves on the pavement beneath… only slower, as though someone who was not me, was savoring my own experiencing against my will…
Depression was sinking into water – darker at the bottom – then at the surface. Depression was the ability to look up and see the faces waiting for me to breach, but not being able to move toward them of my own accord. Depression was the inability to move toward the warmth that I needed, in spite of everything that I tried and strove for.
But what if the bottom of that pool were endless? What if it was so deep, so neglected that unbeknownst to me something heavier than water had seeped in and made rivers of itself on the floor? And what if I found my way to the floor and, having discovered these heavy flows, dipped my feet into them and was gobbled up into it?
That is what this new feeling, which I have little name for, feels like. It’s deeper and darker (because the light it needs to come to consciousness has seldom show there). It is something that sticks. It something that cannot easily be flicked away like water. It dries and stays attached to my skin in the sun, rather than simply evaporating and leaving me drier than before.
What is the depth of hopelessness?
To answer my own question then, I can only say that there is a great depth to hopelessness, but that it is not all that there is. When the well of hope – the most lucrative and fluid of cultural currencies – dries up, there is desperation, at least for me.
Paranoia. Sorrow, indescribable. The merging of the imagined and the observed reality. And beneath all that, the question, “What did we miss?”