To Light or to Curse?

Just saw a bumper sticker that says, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

This after I had spent an hour drafting one of those “should I keep going?” journal entries over breakfast. My depression is a chicken/egg sort of thing: there’s the chemical side of it and the existential side of it. They feed each other ruthlessly, so I never quite know which one led to the other. The chemical side is the part that feel like my brain is in a vice of negativity and despair, and nothing can or will loosen the vice. The existential side is made up of all the “why?” and “what if?” and “wtf?” questions that I ask the universe or god or Goddess or the empty void I fear is actually in charge of all this.

Today’s questions about life’s meaning revolve around why I am incapable of being the great dad I want to be. The truth is, young children have always driven me crazy. I thought that my own young children would be different…and they are…they drive me EVEN MORE crazy than the kids I could walk away from or roll my eyes at when they used to bother me. So after berating them last night for being demanding and rude and insensitive to each other, I woke up feeling like an asshole…an asshole who desperately wants to be the Father Knows Best sort of kindhearted man who never raises his voice but who, in actuality, is prone to fits of rage and leaves his children (and wife) never quite knowing which daddy will be around – the asshole or the fun-loving, All-American Dad. I feel bad for my kids, my wife, and even myself because, after all, I AM trying, dammit.

So that leaves me pissed off mostly at whoever/whatever is in charge of this absurdity. Whether it’s evolution or God who had designed this world, it seems to me that the designer sucks at his/her/its job. If I designed a car that had the most powerful engine on earth, but I only gave it 4 flat tires to run on, I would’ve designed something with amazing potential that can never be fully realized. That’s how I feel about humanity. No matter how many great dads there are, or how many Mother Teresas, or how many Ghandis, there are still abusive fathers, Hitlers, and men like the guy in the news this week who left his toddler in the backseat of his car for 7 hours, most likely on purpose, to kill the kid. And my cruel brain won’t stop reminding me of the latter sorts of people.


But then there was the bumper sticker. I’m really good at cursing the darkness, and frankly, I’ve tried as hard as anyone to light some candles in my day. But I grow increasingly convinced that the candles aren’t doing any good. I’m growing more and more despondent about the winds of darkness that seem to put out all the candles I light. Still, one thing I’m sure of is this: cursing the darkness is no way to live because it only increases the prominence of the darkness inside my own head. What I like about this mantra is that it doesn’t ignore the darkness, and it doesn’t make dubious claims that frustrate me…things like, “Just one candle can light up the whole world!” or “If everyone just lights one little candle in their own dark place, the darkness will finally realize it has lost!” Frankly, I find those sorts of sayings overly optimistic.

But this one, in it’s simplicity and realism, I can buy into. It is indeed better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

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