The outrage and despair many of us feel today are not simply everyday anger and sadness. They are something deeper and more profound.
Anger is the negative, fiery emotion we feel when we believe someone has wronged us. Outrage is that wild, unhinged anger we feel when someone has threatened our very identity or core values. We’re not outraged when someone cuts us off on the road. Very angry, maybe. But we save our outrage for moments when our fundamental beliefs of what it means to be decent or even human are under threat.
Sadness is the negative, deflating emotion we feel when we’ve lost something dear to us. Despair is that impossibly deep sadness we feel when we believe we have or will lose something essential to us. In the grips of despair, the world no longer makes sense. Life is no longer worth living. Most of us won’t feel despair when our 90-year-old parent dies. Their death fits into our model of how our life will and must unfold, however difficult. But if our child dies, most of us would fall into deep despair. Our whole conception about how life is supposed to work is obliterated in an instant.
Today, many of us fear that we are losing or have already lost our planet, our traditions, our purity, our dignity, or something else.
Some respond with outrage, especially when there is someone or something to blame. Some respond with despair, especially when we believe that loss is imminent and inevitable. Some numb themselves out with booze, drugs, fast food, or television. Some allow themselves to be consumed by cynicism or apathy to quell the fear bubbling just below the surface.
The common thread is that many of us fear that we have or will soon lose something fundamental to who we are. We don’t just fear are losing something important. We fear we are losing something essential, something that defines us, something that makes life worth living.
We fear that we are losing ourselves.