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Quiet Desperation

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posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 12:06 PM
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I read this quote of Henry David Thoreau's after listening to Pink Floyd’s masterpiece “Time” yesterday and would love to hear your thoughts on it. I'd say that this quote could easily describe the root of much of the malaise I've experienced over the years, and I believe it may also resonate with some of you.



“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”



Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854.

In the middle of the 19th century, Thoreau witnessed a societal trend which has only gotten worse, a move away from the self-sufficiency and community (No, I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive) which marked the previous century in favor of stepping in line in hopes of joining the great march of progress.

By now many of us have seen that the march is going nowhere, and all the time spent waiting in line was only to find fool’s gold at the end of the rainbow.

Those of us still stuck in line can be marked by our quiet desperation. The extent to which we ourselves feel this malaise is a good indication of how entrenched we are in the line to nowhere.

There’s a way out. Thoreau found his in Walden, but each of our paths are different. In order to understand our desperation, one must first acknowledge its source, then regain power by deposing the despot fear which rules too many lives.

So what is causing the quiet desperation of today?

*Hopelessness
Hopelessness is the very definition of desperation. One can combat hopelessness by nurturing individual talents, contributing his/her individual best (which varies greatly in scope but never in intention) to the world around. The more one has faith in fellow man, and in one’s own talent and beauty, the more one is equipped to share and encourage this talent in others.
*Longing
Part of desperation is a false sense of reality; percieving life as it "should be" rather than as it is. Longing usually marks our inability to accept the situation as is and see the abundance around us.
*Need
Need, in the most basic sense, is holding so many of us back from achievements. The mind of a person living check-to-check is unable to plan for the future, and stress and necessity rule. This is where community also needs to come in, to be aware of which of us is in need of the most basic help and we ought to be able to ask for help when we are the ones in need.
Need is and should always be a temporary condition.
*False Security
If our hopes are placed in any one, any thing, or any institution outside of our self (or our God, for the religious), they are very likely untenable. Power is in understanding our own security is in surviving day-to-day, loving those around us, and always working to better ourselves and, by doing so, providing the incentive and permission for others to be excellent as well.
*Fear
Number one barrier in all of our lives.
*Chasing “the Dream”
No problem with this, unless the dream presented is empty. We should be very careful in laying our treasures in life.
*Motes in Our Brothers’ Eye
Time spent focused on the weaknesses and sins of our brothers is wasted time without introspection and self-growth. We will always feed our unhappiness if we are focusing our anger and indignation outward without any intention of making anything better.
*Isolation
Understanding one’s connection to everything else is a certain weapon against quiet desperation. The more we connect to the world around us and work to improve it the more we understand that , as the blind poet Milton so eloquently wrote, “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Looking forward to your thoughts on Thoreau's quote!

edit on 15-6-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 12:23 PM
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Thoreau is one of my favorite philosophers, he had much wisdom in his words. I take his words here as if humanity is no longer living naturally but artificially and underneath our addiction to the artificial comfort of modern life there is a desire to go back to the old way of things where we were self-sufficient instead of relying on the corporate machine to supply our needs for us.

The bigger our society becomes the less connected we become with those we interact with, the less connected we are with others the more "cold" we become and the more "cold" we become the more willing we are to step on others on our way to the top of society.

Back when we lived in tighter knit communities we were less willing to step on others for our own benefit because we grew up and loved those whom we interacted with, nowadays the distance from corporate to worker is so distant that there is no connection therefore those at the top are more willing to hurt those at the bottom.
edit on 6/15/2018 by 3NL1GHT3N3D1 because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 12:34 PM
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a reply to: 3NL1GHT3N3D1

Absolutely agree with your take.




posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 12:41 PM
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The fruits of capitalism.



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 12:52 PM
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a reply to: FyreByrd

Although Adam Smith's nightmarish vision is sadly the direction capitalism seems to be going, I honestly see nothing inherently wrong with free market capitalism-- couldn't it be a way to nurture and encourage excellence and innovation?
edit on 15-6-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:01 PM
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originally posted by: FyreByrd
The fruits of capitalism.


I'd call it godlessness



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:11 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

I think Walden is very relevant today. Modern man has removed himself from the essential facts of life, that one has to wonder if he is truly living.

Personally, I appreciate the self-reliance principle of the transcendentalists. There is something rewarding about making ones own way through life.



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:19 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope
a reply to: zosimov

I think Walden is very relevant today. Modern man has removed himself from the essential facts of life, that one has to wonder if he is truly living.

This is a great question that seems to have particular relevence in today's virtual/physical reality.
I think yes, but we might be able to live... more vibrantly



Personally, I appreciate the self-reliance principle of the transcendentalists. There is something rewarding about making ones own way through life.


My goal is to focus my learning on a few essential skills that I could lend to an equally skilled community, some sort of balance between individuality and community.


edit on 15-6-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:20 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

You might like this video which talks about how when our belief system is really challenge many people will fall into nihilistic beliefs because they cannot cope:



"The solution to the problem of tragedy and malevolence is the willingness to face them."


edit on 15-6-2018 by dfnj2015 because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:27 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

"Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream"




posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:28 PM
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originally posted by: zosimov
a reply to: FyreByrd

Although Adam Smith's nightmarish vision is sadly the direction capitalism seems to be going, I honestly see nothing inherently wrong with free market capitalism-- couldn't it be a way to nurture and encourage excellence and innovation?


Actually, what we have is a far cry from Adam Smith's 'vision' as you call it.

And that's just one man's analysis in the same way that "Das Capital" is one man's analysis.

Capitalism has been around in many forms over the centuries and it worked moderately well for all until the colonial era where wealth extraction replaced production for use.

What we are experiencing is the decline and eventual destruction of capitalism if we can survive long enough. It will take hundreds of years, and I believe it started (the decline that is) in colonial extraction and will continue.



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:32 PM
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a reply to: FyreByrd

Fair point.

What do you envision will/should replace the current system?
edit on 15-6-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:33 PM
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a reply to: dfnj2015

Watching now. Lots of good points in here.




posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:36 PM
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originally posted by: Tucket

originally posted by: FyreByrd
The fruits of capitalism.


I'd call it godlessness


Of course you do, honey


Obey that good old time authoritarian religion and be saved (for later).



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:46 PM
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a reply to: Tucket

I'd call it GODfulness. All experiences must be experienced, even the not so great ones....You know, duality and whatnot.







posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 01:46 PM
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a reply to: dfnj2015

Lol, perfect. Thank you. (My fave on that album is Dogs which also has lyrics relevent to topic)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 02:47 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

I work less hours, have more free time and more money to spend on leasure activities that people I the 1800's. I can travel the world quickly by airplane, visit places people only dreamed of visiting back then.

I can talk with relatives in other continents in real time when previously you could only mail at best, and miss those people even deeper as a result of the seperation.

Why on earth would I want to take a step back? I don't feel emptiness or a loss of self sufficiency. I hunt, fish and pride myself on my survival skills. I like the modern advantages and lifestyle we currently possess, yet am still able to pack up and hit the woods to camp for a month to get away from it all. Best of both worlds!

If so many of you feel like this philosopher did, why not do something about it? Pack up and head to Alaska and live off the land. I'd suspect most would come running back quickly.
edit on 15-6-2018 by nightbringr because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 02:52 PM
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a reply to: nightbringr

I'm glad to hear you are happy.

For me, got my small garden plot I'm tending (which is where I'm actively trying to learn more about self sustenance and where I control what goes on my food), do what I love during the hours I choose, and have lots of time to spend with family.

One of my best friends lives off the grid in Alaska, built her house in Nome, gets her water from a stream in front of her house. She loves that way of life- I might not be up to it myself but would never disparage it.

edit on 15-6-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 02:55 PM
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originally posted by: 3NL1GHT3N3D1
The bigger our society becomes the less connected we become with those we interact with, the less connected we are with others the more "cold" we become and the more "cold" we become the more willing we are to step on others on our way to the top of society.

Back when we lived in tighter knit communities we were less willing to step on others for our own benefit because we grew up and loved those whom we interacted with, nowadays the distance from corporate to worker is so distant that there is no connection therefore those at the top are more willing to hurt those at the bottom.


Although I agree, I do not think this isn't a simple ponder. In some ways, in the old days, it's was due to access. We only had access to so much before, or so many people. We were only given access to the limited options that saw repeatedly, with no choice in the matter. Yes, as we became more connected, we became less connected. The number of people we interact with in one day is exponentially huge. There just isn't enough time to maintain those connections. We still want to work, spend time alone, read, watch a movie, enjoy a hobby, and then on top of all that, still try to engage with people (potentially hundreds to millions, situation dependent).

It isn't possible to develop connections the way we did before (well, not impossible, but I'm talking about society as a whole). And the landscape of society will never be the same. Even now, as we type this, we are engaging in thin relationships with people we don't actually know, will never meet (unless an ATS potluck happens someday... which I'm all for!), and likely have formed incorrect opinions of because a lot of people talk on here in a way that they would not in person. And doing so we are taking time away from the people we actually see and know. It's actually kind of weird that we pursue social media (and I count this as social media too) in the way that we do, knowing full well (well some of us anyway) that there was something more inviting about the way things were.

That said, there is some allure in connecting with people we would never come across normally, in other states, other countries, other opinions... even if it's a shallow few sentences.
edit on 15-6-2018 by okrian because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2018 @ 03:18 PM
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a reply to: zosimov

Beautiful OP! Kudos.

We see the effects of the fear and hopelessness all around us with the Opiod crisis and the huge uptick in suicides.

One of the sources of "quiet desperation" I've recognized for years is "Jealousy". Society and Business work hand in hand to foster and promote jealousy, every thing from "Keeping up with the Joneses" to the Wealth gap. We've produced a culture of "counters", people who are constantly comparing themselves and what they have to others and what they have and becoming endlessly disturbed by the fact that there's always so many who have so much more than themselves.

I quit counting years ago

Thanks for a thought provoking OP!



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