It’s that time of year. The middle of the semester. Grades have been received. Campus activities seem to be in full swing with all of the responsibilities that follow. Life is continuing on outside of school presenting more obstacles mentally to tackle before considering putting efforts towards academia or any sort of social scene. Feelings resonating in students and faculty sound closer to fear and trembling rather than happiness and ambition.
Along with Autumn comes moody cloudy mornings and broody rainy days. The ambience prompts staying inside and cultivates an essence of rest. The season is not necessarily compatible with the energy required for collegiate studies.
Burn out sneakily approaches. What are we supposed to do to stay grounded in a time like this? Nothing seems consistent yet full of monotony. Feelings of depression rise as hurdles to jump due to a lack of hope to get through the daily routine.
Lily Huff, a highly involved student on campus, says, “I feel like this time in the semester I just get really bogged down by how much work I have left to do. It’s really hard to continue when you feel like you will never be able to finish the overwhelming number of responsibilities”.
When feelings of pressure and tension in any aspect of life intensify, the human being either can be apathetic and withdrawn or driven and overwhelmed. Both have their negative consequences.
As college students, we are in a season of constant transition and opportunity. The anxiety of assuming our role in the world to make a significant and worthy change and achieving our potential can feel closer to a burden than a liberation. This is not yet hopeful, I understand. Keep reading.
Søren Kierkegaard, existentialist philosopher, comments on this very feeling of universal despair in The Sickness unto Death. He presents this problem as a result of the constant inner contradiction of necessity and possibility, finitude and infinity, among other conflicting feelings. Universal despair is the sickness unto death.
The recognition of the constant inner battle for necessity and the relentless nature of possibility can demolish what ambition and confidence we once had in August. The necessity can be found in stability. Possibility can be found in opportunity.
With too much possibility, anxiety grows with the excess of opportunity. With too much necessity, life becomes monotonous and provides time to ponder our existence inflicting depression. Life is overwhelming. What do we do now?
Throughout Kierkegaards writing he seems to present four options to reconcile the inner contradiction. First, we can try to forget the contradiction completely. Second, we could neglect one of the parts, either the infinite or the finite for instance. Third, we could seek to settle the contradiction with our own capacities. The final option is God.
The first three are simply applying band-aids to an open wound. God provides an inner balance of both the necessity and possibility. With an understanding of Truth, we can stay grounded in our correct conception of reality. Hope for a future in Christ relieves the pressures of this temporal life.
Kiekegaard presents faith as a beautiful synthesis of possibility and necessity where peace and hope can be found in a reliable God with still an essence of mystery. Faith provides a way to connect with something outside of ourselves and recognize our existence. There are practices we can partake in to grow faith and seek a resolution for the universal despair such as prayer, attending church, reading the Scriptures or studying philosophy.
Yes, living is a daily battle. There is no denying this fact. Every day comes with its challenges. However, God does provide us with tools to reconcile this constant inner contradiction. Set achievable yet challenging goals to keep focused on the ultimate goal. Take time to rest and give yourself grace. Invest in relationships and connect with community. Recognize beauty daily in order to excite the soul. At the end of the day, pursue faith and stay grounded in the Truth.
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