I was very troubled by something over Shabbos.
I was recently placed in a social situation with many people whom I have not seen for a long time. There, I was very disturbed by something, but I could not put my finger on what. In fact, I chastised myself for suspecting anything was wrong. Surely I am not so cruel a person that I am unhappy when other people seem pleased and contented? Surely I don't want other people to be unhappy with something simply because I am? Surely I do not want people to suffer?
No! I realized this Shabbos. I know what bothered me so much. It was the dead, dull look in people's eyes. People were resigned. Resigned to their lot, to their fate. They seemed to harbor a belief, "This is the way the world works. We're stuck with it; we have to deal with it. We have no other choice."
People who had once flamed with passion and with the desire to change things had suddenly been transformed. They were silent, quiet, lying to themselves in order to convince themselves that everything's okay.
These people had not forgiven whatever had been done to them; they had merely forgotten it. Or told themselves they had.
And these are not older people who have to deal with the responsibilities of life, who have been beaten down by many years and disappointments. These are not people who have lost hopes or broken dreams or have cause to be completely disillusioned. These are people my age, perhaps a few years older.
So why are they resigned to the way everything is? What happened to the words they spoke, those flaming words and burning eyes and the way they looked and swore they would try to do something, anything, to change the way things are?
This makes me so upset. It's one of the worst things that could happen to a person. To exist but not to live, to feel like one has no ability to impact anything, that one is caught but cannot break free...Resignation is worse than apathy. Apathy is when one does not care. But resignation is when one does care, and has tried, and has been broken. And now they are simply resigned to their lot.
I know what all of you tell me. I know that so many of you think of me as nothing but a naive, foolish, idealistic little girl, whose thoughts will amount to so much dust and ash. I have heard over and over again that nothing I ever do will matter, that it is hopeless, that I might as well stop trying. That I am too small and too inadequate to effect any kind of change.
You have told me that this is the way the world works and I should accept it, suck it up and deal with it.
To do that, for me, would be a kind of death. It would take away all purpose. It would mean there is no point to any kind of existence. It would mean there is no use in trying. To be resigned is not to live. To be resigned at my age is a horror. I cannot understand what has happened here. I cannot understand how someone who is only eighteen can go in for some kind of false contentment, something which she herself knows is a lie! and truly believes this is her only choice.
Perhaps you are right. Perhaps this is the way things are.
But in the words of the immortal Edna St. Vincent Millay, "I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."