The Anthropology of Hell

Hell is pretending to be well when you are anything but. It’s walking down supermarket aisles with next to no cash in your pocket and even less in your bank account, unable to buy even a chocolate bar for sustenance. It’s attending events and function where old friends gather and chit-chat about their various successes while you mime their gestures and try your hardest to blend in with the wash of small talk. It’s dressing in borrowed finery and knowing one day there will be debts to be paid.

It’s finding yourself in a darkened room fumbling around with semi-strangers hoping that protection will indeed be used. It’s searching for words and phrases and coming up clutching ideas and concepts that are almost right but still wrong. It’s looking longingly at old photos but not even remembering what that happiness truly felt like anymore. It’s the gulf between then and now, between clarity and confusion, between sanity and psychosis, between others and yourself. It’s the difference between charity and kindness, between affairs sustained by nostalgia and friendships nourished by love. It’s hoping against hope when your options are exhausted, that one last wild toss of the dice before you jump ship. It’s watching the world drift away, then one day waking up and realising you’re already on another continent, and you’re all alone, except for the criminal and the insane.

Hell is being an optimist when there are no conditions to support this. Hell is hope. It’s believing in miracles when these have been historically scarce on the ground.

But can I imagine a world without hope? It’s simply unnatural to give up, even – perhaps especially when the end is near. Old men rage against the dying of the light. Sick men cling onto the possibility of health even as they lose their senses and cough up blood. Crazy men have period of brightness and lucidity in which they put all their eggs in one basket and start all over again. There’s no letting go – even when this is possibly the most graceful option. Diminished, battered, bowed, we go on, embracing Hell in all its brimstone and colour, because that is the only possible way to live.

I know it seems I’m being unbearably emo these days, but honestly I’ve never been an attention-seeking drama queen, and that hasn’t changed; what looks like endless moaning is merely honest desperation. There’s a book on my shelf called ‘The End of My Tether’, and even though I have forgotten all its contents, it’s title speaks to me now more than ever. And yes I know everybody hurts, but this constant mental exhaustion has turned me into a narcissist – it’s difficult to truly empathise with others when your own sense of hurt and betrayal is so dramatically all-consuming.

Sometimes I think writing a blog no one reads is like sending messages in bottles across the vast ocean of the Internet – yes, most of it gets lost in the digital mess, but one day, it might wash up on some stranger’s – or some old friend’s shore, and then out of the murk perhaps there might be a reply, or a signal, or whatever….just some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Or simply an acknowledgement that we are all in the same boat, even with you on a pedestal, and me in my own private hell.




1 Comment

  1. “one day, it might wash up on some stranger’s – or some old friend’s shore, and then out of the murk perhaps there might be a reply”… if only i had known, & all the time was longing for u to update!

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