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
No. 1-7
charlieL
charlieL

Working for years at a job you hate, a loveless marriage, knowing you may never be able to retire

Yossarian Johnson
Yossarian Johnson

Editor

@boboc It is. it's existential anxiety

boboc
boboc

Quiet desperation sounds to me to be anxiety.

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.

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.