Hauntology of the Human Spirit
There is a sadness that haunts essential to our humanity. The drive in American culture to feel good, whether through medication or meditation, self-help or self-denial, maximizing or minimizing possessions, cannot erase what we are: hope and despair, light and dark, possibility and failure. Why does such honesty frighten us? Authentic belonging is born of integration, not elimination. The emotional complexity of our inner world is a treasure trove and one of our greatest teachers. Anxiety evolved as a helpful emotion, an essential element woven into the tapestry of our existence, necessary for survival as part of the amygdala’s development of our fight or flight response beyond freezing in the face of fear. Still, we shun the feeling, distrusting its place within us, rarely even curious of what this ancient sage might offer, intent instead on its extermination whether through medical or mystical means. Melancholy, too, a pensive sadness, typically with no cause at all, quietly contributes to our vitality, a reminder of the cost of existence: being here is both mysterious gift and burden, miraculous and, at times, maddening.
Derrida noticed how the dead—a dead parent, for example—can be more alive, more powerful, more influential, than the living. So, too, the never was and already past continue to visit providing an indelibly spectral shaping to our emotions. Haunted by the ghosts of what used to be, and the apparitions of possibilities never come to pass, simply accepting the invitation to be fully present in the present can be the greatest challenge of all. To engage in even a cursory hauntology of your own spirit is to recognize these phantasms, though immaterial, are just as much a part of you as bone and blood. Denying them only causes moaning and wailing; accepting them, however, unveils their evanescence, setting both them and you free.