Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When Darkness Falls

"Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V"

V stands for Virginia Woolf.

The above is written by Virginia Woolf. It was to become her last written words - her suicide note to her husband.

On 28th March 1941, Virginia put on her overcoat and filled the pockets with stones. 
Then she walked to River Ouse which was near her home and drowned herself.

Virginia's body was not found until 18th April 1941.

It was probably something like this -

The above are the opening scenes to the movie: "THE HOURS". The movie had a powerful cast of amazing women: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore. It remains one of my most favourite movies of all time. In "THE HOURS", Nicole Kidman delivered her most memorable role as "Virginia Woolf" and won the Best Actress Academy Award.

Virginia Woolf was not an easy woman to understand, and was an even more difficult woman to live with. To give you some idea of what it she was like, here is an excerpt from 

Woolf's mood swings, depression, physical ailments, headaches, and other symptoms are in current phychiatric parlance considered "psychosomatic", which include the so-called neurasthenic syndromes. Much of her writing reflected her inner conflicts. Woolf developed innovative literary techniques in order to reveal women's experience and find an alternative to the dominating views of reality. In her essay 'Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown' Woolf argued that John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells and other realistic English novelist dealt in surfaces but to get underneath these surfaces one must use less restricted presentation of life, and such devices as stream of consciousness and interior monologue and abandon linear narrative. Marital disappointments and frustrations she often dealt ironically. In To the Lighthouse Woolf wrote: "So that is marriage, Lily thought, a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing a ball."

She was indeed a very tormented woman, despite how talented she was.

Virginia had insisted that she was always alone in her suffering. That no matter how much her husband and friends cared about her, none of them could join her in her torment. None of them could save her. It was all in her mind and she alone could only save her.

The sad truth is, no matter how much we are loved and adored by others, none of that can compensate for the hole inside us. 

In the quietness of our mind 
We are all alone with the noises. 
We never allow the pain to leave us
Even as we grow into adulthood
We do not let our suffering go
Only happy to revive the misery
Repeatedly in our mind
We still have to face the hours
All alone...

This is the real maddening suffering that we inflict upon ourselves every day. 
Compressed, compounded by the various memories  of our past, our childhood, not moving past those moments. Each person we meet, every situation we get ourselves into, and if any of it even remotely reminds us of our pains, our sufferings, we are immediately transported back to that very spot or that very moment where it all began. And then, everything else start to culminate within us, like an uncontrollable wave - carrying all sorts of emotions and memories, churning into a vortex. Then it happens, we become overwhelmed. It is no longer about the matter at hand anymore, nor the person standing infront of us - it is everything that has led to this moment because we are still hanging onto every shred of painful memory - unwilling and unable to let them go. 

It is funny how we allow our pains and suffering to mould us and define us more than our virtues, strengths and hopes. 

This is why they say, HELL IS A STATE OF MIND AND NOT A PLACE.

When darkness falls, we can choose to allow the darkness to engulf us or choose to swim the surface. But we cannot rise above when we are unwilling to face the truth. Yes, sometimes it is scary and painful to face the truth, whatever it may be. But do we truly want to remain as prisoners of our own pain for the rest of our lives? Do we want to carry these baggages of insufferable torment like they are glorious trophies? Are we only eulogized by our suffering?

Sad to say, some people will never go past their misery and affliction. Because some people actually think and believe that without their suffering, they are nothing. 

These people believe that their suffering becomes them. As if without the anguish, they would become non-existent or even worthless. 

As much as HELL is a state of mind, the same applies for HEAVEN or HAPPINESS.

And that is what I keep telling myself and my friends who seem to be drowning in their sea of pain. I once swam in that very same sea too. But even as a former dweller of that sea, I still could not pull them out of that familiar horrid water. Then I realised, having been in that ocean of suffering does not make me a capable saviour or helper. Just because I have been there and done similar things, do not make me better equipped to help anyone. Having courage alone, without real knowledge is useless. Having knowledge and experience but without compassion is also hopeless.

Just because we know the ways to help, may not mean we care to help. It certainly does not mean that we would be willing to dive that deep into the darkness in order to save another.

Likewise, wanting to help and caring to help without having the wisdom of the right methods is also a suicide mission. Because we do not know the best ways to help, we might end up causing more harm than good if we jump into the depths. We may end up killing the person we want to help and ourselves in the process.

In Buddhism, we stress the importance of having both the compassion and wisdom in union. One cannot exist without the other. Now, I am beginning to understand why.

Without wisdom, we cannot determine which is the most beneficial method to employ in helping someone and what's the dosage in applying the medication. Hence, our methods could be wrong and is not tailored according to that being in question. It is like a doctor who mis-diagnose a patient.

Without compassion, we will not care to help any being even though we may possess the knowledge and expertise. We will not go the extra mile or beyond our comfort zones. We will hesitate when we stand at the edge of the cliff and stare into the depths. We will not be moved to aid anyone without agenda, willingly and happily.

Sylvia Plath 
Ernest Hemingway
Anne Sexton
Elise Cowen
Yukio Mishima
Hunter S. Thompson
Jean Amery
Iris Chang
Kurt Cobain
Vincent van Gogh
Alexander McQueen
Leslie Cheung 

The names above are very talented people who have left our world by taking their own lives. And it is scary how very long this list runs. The names above are all people with a great deal of talent and some have led very wealthy or luxurious lives.

At the end of the day, nothing external can compensate for all that is missing or lacking internally.

Yes, we are a frail and vulnerable species in many ways. 

But we always have a choice.

We can find strength in our own frailty and vulnerability.

We can choose NOT TO GIVE UP even if we fall many times.

In falling down and getting up, we become stronger.

In admitting our own mistakes, facing our own failures and flaws, we grow within.

Above all, understand that darkness is a moment in time. As there is darkness, there is also light. Night will turn into day and vice versa.

It is a cycle of life. There is no need to be afraid of the dark when you realise that you can be your own source of light. 

Learn to cultivate the light within. Then we will never be afraid of darkness ever again, no matter where we go.

For me, I have chosen Buddhism. Because this is the path and method that suit me best. I believe in it and it has helped me so much to this day.

What will be your choice of light force is entirely up to you. Just as long as you don't choose to stay in those murky muddy waters, allowing the darkness to pull you down and drown you.

Become your own saviour.

Yes, you can.

Today's version of yourself is better than yesterday's version of you. And know that tomorrow version of you will be better than today when you do not quit.

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