“Let the unseen days be. Today is more than enough.”
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Is despair an advantage or a drawback?
Regarded in a purely dialectical
way it is both.
If one were to stick to the abstract notion of despair,
without thinking of any concrete despairer, one might say that it is an
The possibility of this sickness is man’s advantage
over the beast, and this advantage distinguishes him far more
essentially than the erect posture, for it implies the infinite erectness or
loftiness of being spirit.
So then it is an infinite advantage to be able to despair; and yet it is
not only the greatest misfortune and misery to be in despair; no, it is
Ordinarily there is no such relation between possibility and
actuality; if it is an advantage to be able to be this or that, it is a still
greater advantage to be such a thing. That is to say, being is related to
the ability to be as an ascent.
In the case of despair, on the contrary,
being is related to the ability to be as a fall.
Infinite as is the advantage
of the possibility, just so great is the measure of the fall. So in the case
of despair the ascent consists in not being in despair. Yet this
statement is open to misunderstanding.
The thing of not being in
despair is not like not being lame, blind, etc. In case the not being in
despair means neither more nor less than not being this, then it is
precisely to be it.
The thing of not being in despair must mean the
annihilation of the possibility of being this; if it is to be true that a
man is not in despair, one must annihilate the possibility every instant.
I, unblessed Atlas!
I carry a world, the entire world of pain,
I bear the unbearable,
And the heart within me wants to break.Proud heart, you have wanted it thus!
You wanted to be happy, eternally happy,
Or eternally miserable, you proud heart,
And now you are miserable.
Such is not ordinarily the relation between possibility and actuality.
Although thinkers say that actuality is the annihilated possibility, yet
this is not entirely true; it is the fulfilled, the effective possibility. Here,
on the contrary, the actuality (not being in despair), which in its very
form is a negation, is the impotent, annihilated possibility; ordinarily,
actuality in comparison with possibility is a confirmation, here it is a
Despair is the disrelationship in a relation which relates itself to itself.
But the synthesis is not the disrelationship, it is merely the possibility,
or, in the synthesis is latent the possibility of the disrelationship.
If the synthesis were the disrelationship, there would be no such thing as
despair, for despair would then be something inherent in human nature
as such, that is, it would not be despair, it would be something that
befell a man, something he suffered passively, like an illness into which
a man falls, or like death which is the lot of all.
No, this thing of despairing is inherent in man himself; but if he were not a synthesis, he could not despair.
Whence then comes despair?
From the relation wherein the synthesis relates itself to itself, in that who made man a relationship lets this go as it were out of His hand, that is, in the fact that the relation
relates itself to itself.
And herein, in the fact that the relation is spirit, is the self, consists the responsibility under which all despair lies, and so lies every instant it exists, however much and however ingeniously the despairer, deceiving himself and others, may talk of his despair as a misfortune which has befallen him, with a confusion of things
different, as in the case of vertigo aforementioned, with which, though
it is qualitatively different, despair has much in common, since vertigo
is under the rubric soul what despair is under the rubric spirit, and is
pregnant with analogies to despair.
So when the disrelationship — that is, despair — has set in, does it
follow as a matter of course that it continues?
No, it does not follow as a matter of course; if the disrelationship continues, it does not follow as a consequence of the disrelation but as a consequence of the
relation which relates itself to itself.
That is to say, every time the disrelation expresses itself, and every instant it exists, it is to the relation one must revert.
Observe that we speak of a man contracting a
disease, maybe through carelessness. Then the illness sets in, and from
that instant it affirms itself and is now an actuality, the origin of which
recedes more and more into the past.
It would be cruel and inhuman if one were to continue to say incessantly, “This instant thou, the sick man, art contracting this disease”; that is, if every instant one were to
resolve the actuality of the disease into its possibility. It is true that he
did contract the disease, but this he did only once; the continuance of
the disease is a simple consequence of the fact that he once contracted
it, its progress is not to be referred every instant to him as the cause;
he contracted it, but one cannot say that he is
contracting it. Not so with despair: every actual instant of despair is to be referred back to possibility, every instant the man in despair is contracting it, it is
constantly in the present tense, nothing comes to pass here as a
consequence of a bygone actuality superseded; at every actual instant
of despair the despairer bears as his responsibility all the foregoing
experience in possibility as a present.
This comes from the fact that despair is a qualification of spirit, that it is related to the eternal in man. But the eternal he cannot get rid of, no, not to all eternity; he
cannot cast it from him once for all, nothing is more impossible; every
instant he does not possess it he must have cast it or be casting it from
him — but it comes back, every instant he is in despair he contracts
despair. For despair is not a result of the disrelationship but of the
relation which relates itself to itself. And the relation to himself a man
cannot get rid of, any more than he can get rid of himself, which
moreover is one and the same thing, since the self is the relationship to
…More to come in Piece VII