David Foster Wallace: Waking to Darkness and Lightning

I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame the earth seems to me a stale promontory, this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.

—SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet

Depression is no laughing matter, is it? It eats up life like a black hole that has no bounds. It sucks the life force out of even the happiest of beings. Someone once said that happiness is a state of mind. Milton said: “The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” How do we survive in a wasteland of our own making? Samuel Beckett once told us that “nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most  comical thing in the world (Endgame).”   Someone asked Ken Bruen, the Galwegian Crime Writer: “How do you define humor?” His response to this was: “It’s our way of getting even.” Maybe that’s the key. Maybe that’s the only way we can confront our despair of existence – the darkness within and without. Getting even. Laughing till the pain and bleakness disappear under the burden of darkness. As David Foster Wallace says it: “You are a trained observer and there is nothing to observe” (The Pale King). That’s DFW to a tee. A man all guzzied up ready to take on the whole world who realizes at the last moment that the world he’d take on resides in his own brain pan all curled up like the Cheshire cat winking back at him with the feint smile and gnomic wisdom of a Dostoevskian idiot. A gentle giant of a man whose compassion and passion gave us the Infinite Jest.

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Nishitani Keiji: The Laughter beyond Nihilism

A paradigmatic example of the Way that has attained the stage of being able to laugh is Zen Buddhism. To immerse oneself in the “play” of the illusionary world and its groundless activity, and to live it to the utmost, is the life beyond nihilism of which Nietzsche’s Zarathustra was an exemplar. What Nietzsche meant in speaking of becoming a “child,” and what he calls “my” innocence (being without guilt), is participation in the play of the world which is at once laughter and folly. When the world and its eternal recurrence become the laughter of creaturely existence, not only the spirit of gravity but also the nihilism of “nothingness (meaninglessness) eternally” is for the first time eradicated from the ground of one’s being. As an old Zen Master once stated: “In laughter there is a blade.” It cuts through the illusions revealing the pure emptiness that is, such is the laughter beyond nihilism…

– from Nishitani Keiji’s – The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism