Weltschmerz – how my pain for the world is rendering me speechless

There are some articles I write with ease, taking about ten minutes or less to pen down, typing faster than an experienced secretary under pressure.  This is not one of them.  There are a lot of things I would like to say but, quite frankly, they are not for me to say, so I am left with expressing my incredible sadness by being quiet and, at the same time, charge my willingness to stand up and change.  But let me start at the beginning.

Some of you may have heard of “Weltschmerz”.  Some of you haven’t.  For those unfamiliar with the untranslatable (in one word) German expression coined by Jean Paul, a German writer of the late 18th and early 19th century, Weltschmerz aims to describe, according to the Internet, “a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness”.  Someone feeling this can struggle with either their own inadequacy within the world or find it increasingly difficult to come to terms with the failings of the world itself, the way things are and the state of being created by humans.  The Brothers Grimm additionally called it a deep sadness for the shortcomings of the world. If you are looking for an English synonym, you will find a list as long as your arm, starting at unhappiness, over to melancholy, next to depression, anxiety, indisposition and doldrums.  None of these really get down to the bottom of what “Weltschmerz” really entails, because it is so much bigger than any of those words and carries so much more meaning.

Whether you have come across this unique German word or not, many of you may have experienced Weltschmerz at some point or another.  I deal with it regularly, unable to close myself off from other people’s and the world’s suffering.  If I somehow hadn’t learnt (probably an instinctive survival method of my already overloaded brain) to shut everything down and stop thinking, I would most likely find myself in a constant state of mourning for what we as humans do to each other and our beautiful planet.  

I have probably always been able to notice other people’s sadness and taken the troubles of the world to heart, being appalled by injustice and getting myself into trouble more than once for speaking up.  I have certainly never won a popularity contest by speaking my mind and the recent event of Brexit has certainly shown it, where some people told me to be quiet as this was not my country.  As a child I struggled to understand poverty when all I could see was food in abundance – so why did other children go hungry? For years I gave up my Christmas holidays and walked the ice cold streets in Germany, collecting money for less fortunate children as part of the “Sternsinger” project (go and look up “star singers” at Wikipedia, it will give you a brief summary).  I don’t want acknowledgement and praise.  It’s what I did and I believe everyone should do during their life, to give up their time to do some good. American activist and author Alice Walker once said: ” Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.” It really hit me the other day. Because, of course, she is so right. Sadly, being active and doing good did and does not cure my tendency to experience “Weltschmerz” and recent events in the world have fed it to the extent that I broke down in tears on more than one occasion the other day.  I can’t fathom that there are still people in the world who seriously believe they are better than others because of their skin colour. I can’t understand that there are people who believe their lives are more precious because they have more money than others.  I am upset by images showing mountains of discarded rubbish in beautiful open spaces. Instead of taking care of our already broken planet, some of us are just dumping their garbage wherever they go.  In one of my other posts in the lockdown diaries I acknowledged that, as a human race, we can’t go on like this anymore. Enough is enough. Something has to change.  Sadly, to me it seems like the changes happening are going in the wrong direction. Maybe it is the pessimist in me, maybe I am, as the Internet suggests, in the doldrums.  But if the likes of Trump and Putin can legally be in power, phrases such as “grabbing her by the pussy” have no consequence and we still haven’t understood that the pigment of our skin does not determine how valuable we are as humans, then I feel we are way behind as a so-called superior species as human beings. 

So, I believe, it’s time for me to change.  My actions have to, because I have been inactive for too long.  I will have to do some soul searching and learn to be brave, stick away criticism and start speaking up.  I will have to keep learning, listening and realise my own mistakes and how I may have contributed to the state of the world.  I know I won’t be able to do it all perfectly. But I will try. I will try hard to put my Weltschmerz to good use, take the pain and turn it into something good.  It’s not about me. It’s about all of us and our planet.  Don’t give me any sympathy because I feel low.  It’s not important and that doesn’t help me or anyone. Start working on yourself and how you treat yourself, others and the planet.  And on those matters that I don’t have the right to speak out, I will stand with you and guard you and protect you, so your voices are being heard.     

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