Man’s Most Destructive Glitch

I believe most male dread can be traced back to a broken model of the world we keep in our heads.

I don’t know where we get it.

But it’s there, like a glitch that threatens to bring down the entire system.

I call it the Terminal Sense Of Life.

It’s the gut-level feeling that your life’s natural arch is to go off the rails. To disintegrate into madness, pain, and misery, and that it will do so at any moment.

Whereas the Cyclical Sense Of Life views setbacks as temporary challenges from which you will bounce back in due course, the Terminal Sense Of Life sees these same setbacks as dreaded signals that the good times are over, that fate has caught up with you, that it’s time for your life to slowly and mercilessly unravel.

If the Cyclical Sense Of Life’s best metaphor is of a cardiogram, where the ups and downs of life spell out a healthy, homeostatic pulse, the best metaphor of the Terminal Sense Of Life is a stock’s plunging bar chart, with each downward tick the possible “big one” that spells utter collapse.

How many men have stolen money, cheated on their wives, committed murder, killed themselves, or any of a thousand other life-destroying actions because they saw some temporary setback through the twisted lens of the Terminal Sense Of Life, and blew it up in their mind to something insurmountable, with no light at the end of the tunnel?

Bono even wrote a song about it: You’ve got stuck in a moment, and you can’t get out of it.

Apparently he wrote that in memory of a friend who had committed suicide.

I feel sheer grief when I think of how much talent, strength, and joy has gone out of the world as men throughout history plunged themselves into darkness, stuck in moments they could not escape.

The terrifying thing is whatever sense of life you have–whether you believe setbacks are trapdoors to the ever-waiting abyss or mere blips that will right themselves in the morning after a good night’s sleep–either way you are right.

If you hear the hopelessness in your wife’s voice and conclude that you will never be able to make her truly happy, then you are right. You are already defeated in heart, and in so believing you inflict yourself with self-struck wounds that will slowly tear you apart and make you utterly insipid to her.

On the other hand, if you hear that same hopelessness in your wife’s voice and conclude instead that she has had a bad day, and wrestle her to the couch to lighten her heart, then her laughter is proof that you are right as well.

If you’re caught up in some struggle, and you feel like you can’t even keep your head above water long enough to draw breath before the next wave fills your mouth, know that you’re not alone, and that no matter how small and lost you feel, so long as you have hope, and so long as you retain the will to act upon that hope, you have everything you need to right the ship and weather the storm.

Don’t let the Terminal Sense Of Life that ALL men feel become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Don’t let it become the story of your fall, the black hour that haunts your future memories.

To you I would echo Dylan Thomas‘s words: Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And I would say to you the same simple words I whisper to myself, in the dark, when I feel the way of hate and the way of life warring in my heart:

Choose life.

Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper

Speak Your Mind