On One Hand

February 4, 2005

Net of Zero

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:33 am

I think it’s by curse, by chemicals, or maybe by divine mandate, that the hapiness in my life is perfectly balanced by its weight in sadness. The joy of living must be countered by the pain of death, the bliss of love by the violence of rejection. I’ll spend Sunday morning cozy between his sheets and Tuesday night despairing that he isn’t calling back. The more love or excitement that I experience today, the more lonliness and melancholy I have to face when it inevitably goes away. Inversely, lonliness today will become love tomorrow. In everything I do I find this to be the case. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a Universal constant, that there’s no escape from the dichotomy, at least for me, ever.

He looked up from his coffee, touched the spoon and set his hand back down. “That’s just cynical. What’s the point of hapiness then?” he asked. The inner edges of his eyebrows tilted upward, concerned. “What’s the point of being happy at all if you know it’s going to be exactly cancelled out by pain, to the net of zero?” He frowned, then looked at me again. “What’s the point of anything?”

“It’s just like that for me,” I answered. “I don’t know if it works that way for everyone. And if it doesn’t, I can have my moments of joy and it’s all worthwhile if I share them with a person who won’t have to pay them back. Consider a candle; you can light it, and then put it out, and find that it has burned a little lower – lost a little of itself, forfeit to the price of burning. But the light it made was good for something, as long as somebody saw.”

“Are you okay?” he asked. He didn’t understand.

“Right now? Mostly.” I answered. “But I can’t forget what you said, and I guess I’m waiting for it to hit me.”

“That’s so sad,” he said, staring at the grain of the wooden table. “I’m sorry.”

“Well, you had a good time last night, didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” he smiled.

“Me too. So… I guess it evens out.”



  1. If there is anything I’ve learned, life is a balance. I was at church a few weeks ago. I’m not all the religious but I do have to say that the sermon that was given was awesome. Our pastor, Dave, spoke of good and evil. His main focus was “How could God let that tsunami happen?” And while I don’t remember what answer he attempted to come up with, it lead to another question: How can we know good without evil? So it goes on like this. Things I’ve read about; things I’ve watched. How can we know love without loneliness? How can we know pleasure without knowing pain? And on it goes. It’s a balancing act. We get doses of one, sometimes heavier than we’d like, and then we are exposed to the other. Ideally, I think we want to reach a middle point, one in which we are happy, love, and so on but also one in which we aren’t jaded to the horrors of the world. If that were to happen, then no one would care about those tsunami victims or the 9/11 victims. People would be walking around with pent up emotions, afraid to let a little negative shine.

    This may totally stray from your point but I just kept going.

    Comment by im_just_a_boy — February 4, 2005 @ 4:21 pm | Reply

  2. I knoe I’ve said this a couple of times before … but damn! You know how to write.

    Comment by kishenehn — February 4, 2005 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  3. It seems to me that the alternative to this balance is a kind of hellish neutrality in which you can scarcely even be sure that you are, in fact, alive.

    Comment by thefrescakid — February 4, 2005 @ 6:11 pm | Reply

  4. x is the non negative.

    “consider a candle; you can light it, and then put it out, and find that it has burned a little lower – lost a little of itself, forfeit to the price of burning. But the light it made was good for something, as long as somebody saw.”

    what a spectacular metaphor. i am wondering if your mind really works like this. while in conversation, do you really come up with these analogies and descriptions?

    you must be a good conversationalist.

    we should try it sometime.

    oh. and i feel that life doesn’t balance itself out. or maybe i haven’t really thought that could be an option. it always seem more sad, and more longing rather than happiness.

    Comment by octoberxswimmer — February 5, 2005 @ 12:07 am | Reply

    • Re: x is the non negative.

      In conversations I come up with things like that but it’s very hard for me to articulate them on the spot. And sure we can talk sometime.

      Maybe the depression is an age thing? I hope so. Sixteen was my hardest year, but I was kind of depressed from fifteen to eighteen, maybe yours is just lasting longer…

      Comment by ononehand — February 5, 2005 @ 3:11 am | Reply

  5. I find this to be true of my own life as well. I always wonder though, the depression I’m in, am I paying for happiness I already had, or for happiness to come? It is a curse of memory. They do balance, and if I am paying in advance, I’d gladly accept a decade of prozac, but maybe that’s cheating.

    Actually, I’m two days into treatment for it, and I’m thinking that dulling it will ruin the payoff. That’s something I’m sure my doctor would never agree with. Philosophically, feeling pain is better than feeling nothing, and I have no excuse other than weakness of character for asking to be treated.

    Comment by jk2703 — February 5, 2005 @ 3:23 am | Reply

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