On Weariness

One of the unusual, and I think powerful, features of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy was that he took moods seriously. For him, a mood can be an insight into the real, bare-bones conditions of our human existence:

A mood makes manifest ‘how one is’ and ‘how one is faring’. In this ‘how one is’, having a mood brings Being to its There. (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, 173)

San Francisco Pillow FightHowever, the conditions under which we all operate – our individual ways of getting through the day – tend to require that we ignore moods as best we can. They are the kind of thing that we paper over or drown out as we busy ourselves in being the kind of person that others need us to be. Heidegger was particularly interested in what lies behind such human experiences as Anxiety, and Boredom. What do these experiences mean? What do they tell us about being human, and as such, what do they tell us about Being?

I think Weariness can be an experience, a ‘Mood’, that lets us lift the veil and glimpse something real.

There is a kind of weariness that fixes us in our being. It is the ‘pushing-back’ of the world against my exertions, the ‘Something’ that properly resists me, and thereby fixes me as a being with will, and desire, and goal. How good this is! It enables us to be creatures and to create – there is no music without friction. It lets me be an individual. It lets me love – to find myself in finitude, with limited powers, and to trust, embrace, and depend upon the love of others. It is the kind of weariness that I imagine pouring through the arms of the First Man, after a day working the Garden, that led him to take pleasure in kicking his boots off and lying out full stretch in front of the fire.

But there is a kind of weariness that threatens to overwhelm. The bone-tired, aching weariness that flows from wrestling with a ‘Something’ that does not merely push back, rather it holds us in a death grip, dragging us down to Nothing, to be consumed and disintegrated.

For a while we might believe that this Weariness will not win out in the end: that it is not the truth of the world. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we only keep trying we can roll our boulder to the top of the hill, and not have it roll back down the other side. A myth.

There is no Rest here. There is no point in this world at which motion may cease. This is fundamental physics: if you do not move you will shiver, starve, be caught up, be dragged down, be eaten alive. Thou Shalt not Rest!

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.
(Genesis 3:19 NIV)

Fatigue’ is how Engineers describe a weakness that develops in materials through repeated variations of stress. Weariness can sometimes be like this, a similar weakness induced through conflicting forces. To be weary can be to experience in ourselves the particular ‘There’, of Being in This World. A world riven by a multitude of opposing wills, conflicting desires. moving toward multiple goals, operating under both a Curse and a Blessing.

And in which, if there was no reconciliation, no proper administration, would eventually shake itself apart.

photo (which is brilliant) by
Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
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