Ours is the Age of Anxiety

Converge, Converse, consume, contain & coast, this is exactly what Malin, Quant, Rosetta & Emble do in W.H. Auden’s 1948 Pulitzer winning baroque eclogue ‘The Age of Anxiety’. The 138 line psychological &  spiritual verse is an allegory on the lives of the four protagonists Malin, Rosetta, Quant & Emble perfectly manifesting Jung’s concept of disintegration of psyche into four different functions thought, feeling, intuition & sensation respectively.

Plotted against the backdrop of World War II, in a third avenue bar, The Age of Anxiety serves a natural setting contrasting with an artificial style of diction, which in all regards does justice in capturing the context of fear and malaise afflicting the population after the war, and hence certainly advocates the concerns of a generation continually in the vicinity of turmoil fighting wars externally at fronts and internally with itself as well, but more in a way we deem it to propel rather than driven by itself.

 For the past 75 years human beings have been intricately attached to the horrors of war, bloodshed, genocide, belief and norms provided by the authority and mutually brought out by the anxiety cultivated. Although, previous eras were far more jittery than ours provided with much impacting revolts, pillaging mercenaries, famines, devastation, plagues and wars, but with the tantrums or ‘bounties’ of the modern world, the advent of ‘Self-awareness’ serves a staunch, paradoxical pedestal to consider anxiety as a condition, leading to a state of depression eventually.

When, anxiety was at the forefront of medicinal & mental consideration, Depression was a rare sickness but since then, it turned out to be the focal point of mental health concerns. By 2015, 4.5% of India’s population was suffering from mental depression whereas 3.47% were suffering with anxiety problems that account to be the highest in the world according to WHO (World Health Organization). One of the most puzzling phenomena in the history of psychiatry is how depression replaced anxiety as the most intense health condition associated with stress conventions.

Source: The Times Of India

This stress convention envelops a diffuse & multifaceted cluster of mystic, physical & inter-personal issues that frequently emerge as a response to the strains of everyday life. The wary of expectations, burdened with insecurities, and denunciating external conditions with over thinking completing this vicious cycle, lead to other problems like headaches, fatigue, inability, distractions, crippling panic attacks, loneliness, suicidal tendencies, ultimately paralyzing our capabilities, compromising our professional & intimate terms, unable to redress in terms of that specific epoch, or that accounting further.

The effect does not only cater to the person suffering from it but largely effects the people around him or her, which certainly describes Auden’s concept of ‘local understanding’, certain anxieties may be overcome not by the altering of conditions but by the cultivation of mutual sympathy – perhaps mutual love, even among those who were strangers before or you have fought wars with. Freud highlighted it as

“The nodal point at which the most various and important questions converge, a riddle whose solution would be bound to throw a flood of light upon our whole mental existence.”

-Sigmund Freud

The most significant way seeking relief from this stress of anxiety is seeking a refuge of comfort which one seeks, the substantial ventilation of emotions seems more effective than keeping it restricted to oneself, one should find comfort in sharing their distress.

“Our primary mode of relinquishing presence is by leaving the body and retreating into the mind — that ever-calculating, self-evaluating, seething cauldron of thoughts, predictions, anxieties, judgments, and incessant meta-experiences about experience itself. The brainy modern loves not matter but measures, no solids but surfaces.’’

Alan Watts, British Philosopher & Writer

The constant thinking, and judging of one’s actions on the basis of one’s previous experiences hinders their presence and diminishes the vault of happiness, the very art of presence is the crux of human existential happiness and best antidote to anxiety. In this scenario, anxiety has now received a realization more than ever before, and hence our age possesses the potential to curb it by love, care, empathy, understanding and sharing our distress with each other rather than surrendering to the monsters of anxiety or depression.

“We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.” 

W.H. Auden, Age of Anxiety

Md. Faizan Salik
B.A Hons. English, Jamia Millia Islamia

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Written by Faizan Salik

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