Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.”
― Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme, for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet—and this is its horror—it can spread like a fungus over the surface of the earth and lay waste the entire world. Evil comes from a failure to think.”
— Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
I’ve spent a long time away from myself now. Over a month at least. I’ve been resting and reading, working and cleaning, and not much more. I’m too drained, too dejected, and, sometimes, too distressed or disquieted for anything else.
But I have missed myself these past few weeks. I’ve missed spending time on those little things that calm me, awaken me, excite me. I have missed my early mornings, my solitude, my little hobbies and particulars.
The problem has been deep and persistent guilt building inside me. There are so many people around me taking the time to be patient, to be supportive, to be kind and helpful, which is all very good and nice, except now there are all these little debts I owe piling up everywhere all the time.
Now any scrap of motivation or focus I have has to be spent returning the favor. All I have time for now is work, or my house, or my loved ones. There’s nothing left that belongs to me anymore.
And today isn’t much different, except that I had a little too much coffee and found myself with just one spare minute I didn’t quite know what to do with. So, I thought, why not stop by this old place, clear some cobwebs, and sit for a minute with that old feeling of possibility?
And oh, how I have missed it too! I’m suddenly reminded of how many ideas I have yet to explore and how many little interesting and thought-provoking things I had hoped to share. I’m suddenly reminded that I had a purpose for this place and a goal for this year. I’m suddenly filled with a small—very small—spark of determination.
Now? Who knows. I found one minute today, maybe I can find two tomorrow? Maybe I can get comfortable carving out a little time and a little space—this space—to call my own. Maybe I can begin to believe I deserve something of my own at all.
You are busy being born for the whole long ascent of life, and then, after some apex, you are busy dying—that’s the logic of the line, as I interpret it. Here, “being born” is an open and existential category: you are gaining experience, living intensely in the present, before the period of life when you are finished with the new. This “dying” doesn’t have to be negative. It, too, is an open and existential category of being: the age when the bulk of your experience, the succession of days lived in the present, is mostly over. You turn reflective, interior; you examine and sort and tally. You reach a point where so much is behind you, but it continues to exist somewhere, as memory and absence at once, as images you’ll never see again. None of it matters; it is gone. But it all matters; it lingers.”
I started the day feeling sluggish and stupid despite getting my third night in a row of uninterrupted sleep—a feat unheard of in my personal “new normal”.
Since that slow start, things have sped up quickly and the sluggish and stupid feeling gave way to a feeling of optimism that’s been building steadily since my first sips of coffee. I want to blame the caffeine, but I know there’s more to the change in mood.
Perhaps it’s because the end of the week I’ve been waiting so anxiously for has finally arrived. I hate to take the rest work week for granted like this, but time has been dragging so and I have been feeling such boredom and restlessness at work it’s driving me crazy! I’m in desperate need of real time to myself for a while.
I have started writing a few things in the gaps of time between emails, tasks, requests, and meeting. Nothing that amounts to much more than notes and outlines, but it’s a step forward from ideas and dreams, so I’ll take it.
This weekend I’d like to carve out time to do a lot more. I don’t want to lose what momentum I’ve gained. I want to use this new energy and excitement to polish and publish old drafts I’ve struggled to clarify and conclude.
It’s going to be tiresome and awkward path forward, but that doesn’t matter. It still feels good to be back in the chair, thinking and typing away about the little things that matter to me.
I’ve had two nights in a row of uninterrupted sleep, a rare occurrence and exciting development. This might be the first sign of real healing.
I have an appointment with my doctor later this morning, and I’m hoping the good news on my end will mean good news on her end too. I’m hoping that we’ve finally hit on the right combination of medications, diet changes, and stress management techniques to calm my immune system and stop the inflammation.
Part of me is reluctant to hope for too much. I don’t want to start dreaming of a better tomorrow. Hell, I don’t even want to live like I have a better today! Not because I think I’ll jinx myself or anything like that. It’s just that whenever I think I’m better, I start pushing myself too hard.
I think I can be the person I used to be and do all the things I used to do, but the path from sick to better, to well, to healed is gradual and winding, often looping or doubling back in strange and unpredictable ways. A favorable stretch or promising directional change may only be temporary. The key and the hardest lesson: slow down and save your strength because you never know what perils lurk around the next bend.
A little better is only that, a little, and that is the most I can give myself or anyone else right now: a little.