By KV Chacko Sep. 28, 2021
Angst is a formless shapeless ghost that hounds our mind and heart. People, sometimes unknowingly, invent ways to escape but often struggle and eventually, even give in.
Angst is a universal malady for which there is no cure. It affects all living things, especially human beings. There is no exact dictionary definition for the word but the nearest definition may be the Hindi word ‘Peeda’, as a sort of anguish or affliction. ‘Existentialist sorrow’ may be another way of describing this vague yet painful feeling that is like pain arising out of being. Everyone at some stage of their lives, or over prolonged periods goes through a spell that is as sticky as glue and as indeterminable as the galaxy we stare into every night.
‘The Outsider’ is a narration of its effects on an individual who says ‘my mother died yesterday, or day before yesterday. In a sense, the particulars don’t matter.’
Camus wrote ‘The Outsider’ to articulate his thoughts on angst. In fact, ‘The Outsider’ is a narration of its effects on an individual who says ‘my mother died yesterday, or day before yesterday. In a sense, the particulars don’t matter.’ Humans do whatever they can to ward off this malady that they often fail to describe. Epicureanism and Charvaka Vadam are two well-known ways to fight the malady. Eat drink and make merry are the prescriptions of both these schools of thought. Marriage, sex, procreation, crime, alcoholism, religion, meditation, politics, fame, wealth, acquisitions, chewing gutka, music, painting, gardening, keeping pets, etc are some escape routes that humans have themselves discovered. But while most of them are recreational there are certain structural adaptations that man has incorporated to be able to deal with this malady he cannot fully understand. In fact, marriage and children have been long-standing and effective diversions mankind has accepted. Sometimes occupation, physical or mental does a better job than inquiry.
Karl Marx said religion is the opium of the people as it promises you relief from the ‘Vyadha’ or ‘Peeda’ in the after-death life.
Sex is a great reliever of existential anguish. You forget for a few moments the agony of living. The ecstasy of sexuality keeps angst away for some time. Rearing children occupies a lot of time and requires a lot of energy that makes you forget angst for the most part of your lived day. Karl Marx said religion is the opium of the people as it promises you relief from the ‘Vyadha’ or ‘Peeda’ in the after-death life. Religious gurus exploit this hope of an angst-free next life even though complete abstinence from feeling this emotion is simply not possible. It can only divert or redirect your attention which is where drugs and intoxication come in. Opium, marijuana, alcohol etc make you forget the ‘Peeda’ for some hours.
Earning wealth and power takes away agony for some time as well. The efforts to earn wealth and power are full-time diversions and can be seen as necessary challenges in life. Posh houses, luxury, sports cars, variety of food etc achieved through wealth acquisition make you happy and helps you pretend to not suffer from angst. Politics is a major angst-killer as well. Political leaders and their followers indulge in many tactics to capture power, the whole drama of which is a good diversion from angst. When they lose power and politicians behave in ways that become some sort of distraction from the seriousness of their work. Even terrorism, on some level, seems to be a way of fighting angst-not that it should be condoned.
I have observed that folks who cook seem to be more at peace than the folks who don’t.
The Taliban may be bored with their life in the rugged mountains and try to outsmart angst with the help of guns and bombs to fight others. Even charity and philanthropic activities aimed at helping poor people to reduce their sorrows and depravities could also be considered as angst mitigating actions. Agriculture keeps rural people away from the clutches of angst. Smoking and associated addictions have also been a way of keeping angst at bay for some time. Cooking also seems like an antidote, as against eating, to keep angst at bay. I have observed that folks who cook seem to be more at peace than the folks who don’t. Though this isn’t to say this technique would work for all but it’s, surely, a better solution than hooking yourself to social media.
Some might argue that suicide is also a remedy for angst. Some people who take to this remedy are just fed up with life. In the 18th century, in Russia and some other regions, suicide had become a widespread epidemic. Not living can be seen as a possible solution to the ills of living, by some, but it’s definitely not recommended. Eventually, you need to discover what works for you. Writing, any form really, has worked for me over the years, but like the weather, angst can come at you from any direction, sometimes unreasonably. Find a way to fight it.
KV Chacko is now an old man of 76. He’s been a published author for most parts of his life, written for national newspapers n magazines besides, strangely, being an auditor.
He also trained to become a catholic priest, a father of the church, instead ended up being a father of two children n a grandfather to two.