The Dark Night of the Soul: Making Sense of Times of Chaos

The Dark Night of the Soul: Making Sense of Times of Chaos

Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, British Ambassador to China in 1936 and 1937, mentioned in his memoir that, before he left England for China in 1936, a friend told him of an old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

There’s not much evidence this expression was ever used as a curse in China, but it’s become rather popular in recent years.

While at first glance a blessing, not a curse, there’s more to this saying than meets the eye.

Interesting Times Are Times of Chaos

When we look back at our history, we recall as most interesting the moments when everything was happening at once.

Wars, famine, destruction, evil, disease.

When the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse get together, they produce some of the most interesting and fascinating moments in history.

Even when it comes to our own lives, we tend to describe as “interesting” the moments that defined us, and it is mostly the moments when we either failed in reaching a goal or fought against insurmountable odds that we consider to be the defining moments of our lives.

One of the most interesting moments of my life was when I decided to drop out of college to pursue my dream of becoming a writer.

Looking back through the broken lens of the past, we can’t help but romanticize our failures, hitting rock bottom, or somehow winning against all odds.

But when we experience such times, we are often frightened, troubled, disturbed by the possibility of failure and disaster.

Yet, this curse, “may you live in interesting times,” feels bittersweet for the same reason we can’t accept defeat: people always think the impossible that happens to them is two letters too long.

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