Apathy in the darkness

People say that the two biggest problems facing western civilization these days are ignorance and apathy. How can we confront these two concerns? Frankly, I don’t know, and I don’t care.

In ancient Greece and Rome, a group of philosophers who called themselves Stoics sang the praises of apathy. They insisted that a virtuous person will not love anything in this world too much, not even a family member or a friend. The world, to Stoics, is a bad place, and everything in it is bad. They recalled the words of Socrates, who pictured the death of his body and the release of his soul as a bird flying free from its cage. So, for the Stoics, should be the attitude of every wise man and woman. We should be unencumbered by the things of this world. We should be seeking freedom from the physical world, freedom to become purely spirit, freedom not to care about food and drink, about clothing and shelter, about health and safety, or about any other matter than pertains only to our physical existence in this world.

Already two thousand years ago, a trade network linked the Mediterranean world with Persia, India, and China. Possibly Buddhist teachings traveled along this network, suggesting thoughts to the Stoic philosophers in the West. For Buddhists also seek to be unattached to the things of this world. Desire, or craving, leads to suffering. Learning to live without desire promotes life without suffering. Buddhists do not completely withdraw from the world—they consider proper vocation as important as proper beliefs and proper meditation. But behind all that is proper lies unattachment—freedom from desire for anything in this world, with the expectation of nirvana—complete freedom from suffering and from the burden of maintaining a self-identity.

In the Star Trek world, Vulcans practice the same apathy and non-attachment as Stoics and Buddhists. Vulcans seek to be guided by logic and reason, not by emotion. Scriptwriters could not resist toying with this philosophy, forcing Mr. Spock in one way or another to confront human emotion. Spock struggled to remain faithful to Vulcan values, to be apathetic and unattached, to be guided by logic unclouded by emotion. Doctor McCoy found Spock’s apathy to be cold and unappealing, but Captain Kirk often found Spock’s Vulcan ways to be helpful to the crew and the mission of the Enterprise.

This winter I am starting with a new therapist, hoping to overcome the burden of apathy. My own depression, combined with the challenges of the past year, have left me feeling burnt out and uncaring. The virus crisis, the year’s political chaos, and threats to my own job and income have exhausted my inner strength. Moreover, I have for years been taking medicine to help control my feelings of anxiety and depression. Christmas season was an ongoing struggle—I did not want to celebrate the holiday, and I did not want to spend time with family. I stopped caring about my health and well-being; I was uninterested in taking care of myself. My writing lagged. My personal space became increasingly cluttered and untidy. Even my decision to seek therapy comes, not from any desire of mine to recover, but from the insistence of family members that I need help.

Christians are not meant to be unattached. We are to love God whole-heartedly, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Christians are not meant to be apathetic. We are to hunger and thirst for righteousness; we are to mourn our sins and the world’s evil—then we can be comforted and satisfied. Christians do not seek a spiritual existence untouched by the physical world. When God created the world, what he made was good. When the world became corrupted by sin and rebellion and evil, God became a physical being, as human as we are, to redeem the world. He defeated death by dying and by rising to life again—rising with a body that could be touched, that could eat and drink with his disciples, that remained physical and human. He promises his people a resurrection to a new and perfect world where we will eat and drink together at his table and enjoy everything that was good in the first creation.

Not caring is a problem. The loss of emotion means fading into darkness, not walking in the light. Right now, I honestly don’t care, but with help I expect to start caring again. With that change, other parts of my life might also start falling into place, aligning in a way that is right for me and for those around me. J.

23 thoughts on “Apathy in the darkness

  1. Yeah…when you no longer care about things you normally do, that’s a big warning signal.

    I care about you and your wellbeing and I’m so glad to hear that you are taking the concerns of those around you seriously.

    Peace be with you, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have bought your book, The Child of Light and the Black Dog. I found excellent insights in Chapter 6 and 9 on. I’m in 13 and finding it really helpful for a Christian suffering under depression. I’ll say more when I have finished. Recommend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no indication that you were suffering from depression. Your writings are always so inspirational and full of hope. I think this pandemic has hit all of us in different ways. I’m actually beginning to like being isolated. Which is a problem in itself. However, we make the most of what God puts before us and He will always see us through. That fact is one we can count on more than anything the world throws at us. I will pray for you and all the issues you’re facing now. You are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your prayers. I thought that writing a book about depression would be good therapy, but it seems only to reinforce the problem. At least the book is written and published. Maybe with the new year and the new season, I can expect things to improve. J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We can be confident that God has a plan for every aspect of our lives. He’s got everything under control and know that he will never leave us. This has been a difficult year for so many this year and we all handle things differently, but God never changes. You are loved by the Creator of the universe❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wish you well, J. I gain much from your writings, but if they are becoming burdensome, lay them aside, keep close to Jesus. You know the song, “Jesus Will Walk With Me?” “Jesus will walk with me down through the valley, …. in joy or in sorrow, today and tomorrow, I know He will walk with me.”

    Liked by 1 person

      • He love to be depended upon, so he is especially close in the valley. High places he wants the same but we don’t depend on him much in the high places. Mostly we don’t even say thanks with much sincerity. Of course there are “Job” trials. I just can’t imagine being to the place that I can’t hear him. One just has to hope because we know the end of the story. Best to you.

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  5. I was unaware of your illness. I am sorry to read of it as I know it’s an ongoing challenge in your life. One can only adapt and control and deal with the triggers in life. Although, it sounds like you have accepted some help… as well as having a good spiritual connection. One day at a time, they say. As for Star Trek… been a Trekkie all my life as well. 🙂

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    • I have vague childhood memories of seeing the original show in its first run. I really got hooked through reruns in the 1970s. And of course I own every episode on DVD, also the movies. J.

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  6. I am sorry you have been depressed to the degree you describe. It honestly doesn’t show in your writing, which though maybe not as frequent, is focused, lucid and deeply thoughtful. When I am really depressed I have difficulty staying focused enough to finish anything; you don’t show it if that’s a problem.
    I can relate to your state. Been there, I’m there now too. I very much hope that you get effective help! Get better. I would miss your insights if you were to stop caring enough to stop writing. Please take care of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will pray for you. I too am a Star Trek fan. Been watching since I was little and it was new. My husband and I realized recently that we have been watching this show for more than 50 years! Literally have every second memorized and it doesn’t get old.

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      • As I told Doug, I have a vague memory of seeing Star Trek in its first run, but really got hooked through reruns in the 1970s. They do seem to remain relevant, even after all these years. J.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It helps that I rarely publish a first draft–always read through and make improvements, sometimes cut sections that wander from the point, often let posts sit a day or two before publishing. Thank you for your kind words. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. 2020 was all about detachment. Don’t get close to anyone or they might accidentally hurt you or you them.
    This separation came too easily for many. The love of many has grown cold.
    This winter of the soul is far from over.

    Liked by 1 person

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