Open Question: 'Quiet Desperation'? What Is It?

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau discusses, 'quiet desperation'. What is it? In your opinion, does 'quiet desperation' drive the human need for escapism? Does it drive a need for a sense of overall purpose in our lives? (Photo credit / Franck Michel)

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau writes:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."

Comments (7)
No. 1-7
rocknrolla6900
rocknrolla6900

Quiet desperation is the sinking into despair and dismay with the overwhelming sinking feeling that you are being swept up and away by events best described as a maelstrom. Little by little you become part of the scenery, without purpose, as you vainly attempt to navigate and negotiate through the incomprehensible maze of contorted and convoluted mess that reality seems to have devolved into without much in the way of positiveness to be found at hand. It's the slowly drowning by imperceptible and incremental degrees until you find yourself, suddenly and inexplicably at the bottom of the ocean.

JohnZambis
JohnZambis

Editor

Quiet desperation is living a life without meaning and knowing it lacks meaning while living it.

A pronounced lack of meaning leads to people attempting to create their own meaning.

Some do it through religion, others through entertainment, others through alcohol and drugs. Recognizing 'quiet desperation' can be a precursor to major depression.

In my opinion, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. is due to a sense of 'quiet desperation' among the public at large. It's a crisis of being.

For instance:

"A new study suggests unemployment might be one of the factors behind that dramatic rise. The paper, published by NBER last week, finds that as the unemployment rate increases by one percentage point in a given county, the opioid-death-rate rises by 3.6 percent, and emergency-room visits rise by 7 percent." (The Atlantic / The Link Between Opioids and Unemployment).

We engage in escapist behavior in order to forget how messed up things are. Life is traumatic. As an aside, I am not entirely sure human beings were meant to live in large city-state agricultural societies and this is maybe part of our collective mental fragility.

Bronwyn
Bronwyn

I find it notable that this quote acknowledges that desperation does not exist in a void. Often at our most desperate we are our most courageous.

In times of desperation we either rally or allow ourselves to be taken by the tide. This is dependent on a number of factors, such as natural resilience and the circumstances involved which are causing our desperation.

A delineation must be drawn between depression and desperation. Depression and desperation may exist as consorts, but depression draws us down, while desperation may drive us to radical action. Desperation can be a force for powerful good, under certain circumstances.

Yossarian Johnson
Yossarian Johnson

Editor

"Often at our most desperate we are our most courageous." I have not thought of things in this way prior, but I do agree with you.

boboc
boboc

Quiet desperation sounds to me to be anxiety.



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JohnZambis
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