Dec 16, 2022
4 mins read
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus
There's nothing I love in winter. It demands too much and cares too little.
It snowed heavily in Seoul yesterday. For the first part of my day, this was of little inconvenience. I woke up near noon, poured myself an iced mocha despite the chill, and finished Haruki Murakami's book, Men Without Women. I was once told that many dislike Murakami because they consider him a pervert, but to that, I would say that everyone is a pervert of some kind; and most do not mind their own perversions until they have to look directly at them in written form.
The book was good, nevertheless, and I'm grateful to the translators who took the time to translate it from Japanese to English. Compared to the western romance market, it had nothing to be shocked about in terms of explicit content.
And that was the first part of my day. There was nothing too bothersome in it; nothing that would cause me any distress. That's how winter is in the beginning. You feel like you can endure it -- maybe even enjoy it -- for a small time.
But then you have to engage with it.
For the second part of my day, I had to prepare myself to go out. Preparation is the hardest part of winter. You have to first make sure your shirt sleeves are warm enough, then layer your pants to block out the wind. Depending on the amount of ice on the ground, you have to choose the right shoes. And if the wind is harsh, you're required to have a hat and scarf. Gloves are always necessary even though they make the most minor of tasks a massive challenge.
And as you wrap yourself in clothes -- in the same way a warrior puts on armor for battle -- that's when you realize how harsh winter is. It's not a friend of yours. It has no interest in your survival. That beautiful snow you saw moments before was a distraction; it was beautiful, but now it now slows every path you choose.
And then you go out in the elements and it tries to bite you like a starving dog with nothing left to lose. It numbs your fingers and nose, and you spend most of your time walking carefully so you don't slip and fall on the way to wherever you're going.
This entire year has felt like winter. It didn't feel like the seasons changed at all... There was only winter, even when the sun was shining.
I slipped far too deep into nihilism this year. Everything became increasingly meaningless, more and more, until I reached a point where I asked God why I still existed at all.
But as the year comes to a close, I don't feel bitter about it. I don't even hate the unchanging winter, even though it has crushed and torn me in every way possible. The truth is, the nihilism wasn't a lie. There really are so many meaningless things. 99% of this world is probably useless, by my estimations. The 1% left is really simple. It became quite clear after a year of winter.
The only thing with any meaning is the human soul. That is it. And that is all. Everything else will fall to ruin, to rust, to rot, except for the soul. It burns in winter, it cools in summer, it blooms in spring, and it shows off its colors in fall.
Everything else is worthless. Absolutely and tragically worthless.
This does not mean that responsibility is to be taken lightly, or that there is nothing worth enjoying. No, there are many things in this world that are enjoyable and morally so. And responsibility is necessary to avoid unnecessary suffering and to increase the enjoyment of those enjoyable things.
But the soul is the only thing that truly lasts. It has to be fed and cared for wisely, carefully, and passionately. And I don't mean something as weak and empty as "self-care." I mean something far more radical than that.
I mean to look at the depth of your soul and dig up all of its evils; to starve it of useless pleasures that damage it more than revitalize it.
Not to know or discover your purpose, but to inject purpose in everything you do; to fill your calendar with things that are meaningful and necessary that your soul needs for its nutrition.
That's how you prepare for winter. That's how you protect your entire being from the elements, and ensure your survival in the harshest conditions.
Winter may be pleasurable in the beginning - beautiful and distracting as it promises a new start - but it becomes brutal the moment you engage with it. Life will always be that way. You must prepare your soul for it.
There is nothing more meaningful than feeding and strengthening your soul. Winter taught me that.