We live in a time of a Pentecostal hysteria and showman pastors and faith-healers. And one common notion prevalent in these churches is that possession by an evil spirit creates the demoniac. And then you have the pastor yelling, ‘Get out, you dirty spirit!’ Literally pushing a man, as if a mere shove can cure him. Oh, how far they’re from the truth! But what creates the demoniac? The man who breaks shackles and rebels against humanity, nature and himself?
If you delved deep into the Kierkegaardian stages of despair, you’ll get the answer. You’ll first find the comical despair or instability. Here’s a man who despairs over something earthly or something transient. Jude despaired this way when he was in college and still does sometimes when deprived of some want. Each time he didn’t play football well, he’d spend the day in utter misery and seek validation. He’d burden his poor mother with his failures, going to extreme details to explain technical terms to her, and then deluded would ask her, ‘Will I make it ma?’ And the poor woman had no other choice but to share in his delusion because she loved him immensely, and would say, ‘Yes. I’m praying for you.’
He remained this way for a long time with a self made of plastic. Crushed, but his lack of insight gave him a modicum of hope, and he clung to it with all his might fueling his fancy, though the winds of reality howled and shrieked. He called himself a Christian then and even attended church, but his faith was insipid and tasteless, just like the faith of those who believe in the prosperity gospel. He tried using God to elevate himself. ‘Give me a beautiful girlfriend,’ he’d pray and then seek his mother’s validation again.
Traces of this despair remain in Jude, but over the years he gained insight. It tore him, and he stopped craving for the materialistic and looked for love. And then entered Samantha, whom he began idolizing. Youth looks to the imagined future and finds itself trapped there, while age looks back through recollection and finds its own trap. And this explains Jude’s relationship with his mother who was also a woman who’d seen much suffering. His masculine ambition sought hope from someone flawed and finite, while she like those rare women who lose themselves completely by loving someone; literally forsaking themselves wanted the best for him and went out-of-the-way to get him a better life. And yet both cases are tragically despair. The former a selfish one, while the latter a selfless one. Oh, what a burden God has placed on humanity that even being altruistic doesn’t qualify as goodness! And I can’t help but ask if this is fair? Is God just? Is being born into this world the biggest curse?
Jude’s insight into his deluded condition, helped him slowly find release, and though he remained in misery, he wasn’t given to wishful thinking anymore. He wanted now to forsake himself; rid himself of his sin and guilt. His abusive nature and idolization of Samantha was eating him alive. He wanted to break the horrible cycle. Samantha now became a mother figure to him and he poured his heart out to her, and she listened and loved him deeply. Despite her bitterness, she too had an altruistic aspect to her. A big one. And this made him love her deeply, but he couldn’t change. Love isn’t just action, and neither is it just emotion. It’s emotion that acts. Jude had the emotion, but couldn’t act, couldn’t prove his love. While Samantha had both and proved her love for Jude. But Samantha lost herself completely loving Jude and displaced her standing with God. Now no relationship is perfect but a healthy one has God at its core, because God is infinite love, and finitude is capable of only a fractured love, prone to mistakes and sorrow.
After Jude lost God, he became the demoniac, the poet or the tortured artist. He’d transcended earthly despair, and the despair of wanting to lose himself. He’d even transcended the despair of wanting a new better self. He now wished to remain in active rebellion against God and had attained the despair of wanting to become God. He wanted to replace God, and this is precisely Satan’s rebellion and Adam’s fall. But Adam reconciled with God and Jude couldn’t. He had a deep-seated hate for God and blamed him, and so found himself in perpetual turmoil. He’d have moments of peace before he’d lash out, and since it’s impossible to lash out against God, he’d hate Samantha and use her as an object of his rage. Perhaps this in a way echoes Cain and Abel.
Jude has now realized where he stands, and it’s a paradox isn’t it? You can never forsake yourself and yet you do precisely that when you change for the worse.
(Inspired by The Sickness unto Death by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard)
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)