I recently invented a new theory: ambitheism. This is the doctrine that God both does and doesn't exist. I have noticed that when I try to believe in God, I am filled with sudden moments of despair that God is absent, but when I try to be an atheist, I slowly come to believe in a divine will. Thus, I have concluded that both ideas are true. God simultaneously is and isn't.
However fashionable despair about the world and about people may be at present, and however powerful despair may become in the future, not everybody, or even most people, thinks and lives fashionably; virtue and honor will not be banished from the world, however many popular moralists and panicky journalists say so. Sacrifice will not cease to be because psychiatrists have popularized the idea that there is often some concealed self-serving element in it; theologians always knew that. Nor do I think love as a high condition of honor will be lost; it is a pattern in the spirit, and people long to make the pattern a reality in their own lives, whatever means they take to do so.
I can't count the number of times I have officially assembled the equipment to take my life: a knife, a handgun, a plastic bag, a bottle of codeine and a fifth of vodka. My motivations are never quite clear: perception of failure, futility, a sense of irremediable isolation, mtv — nothing everyone else hasn't suffered through. Yet I tend to magnify my gloomy outlook into a drive-in picture of the end of the world. I can't seem to remember that despair is a temporary state, a dark storm along the highway; that if I can just stick it out, keep the wipers going and my foot on the gas, I will make it through to the other side.
Betty Williams, a 1977 Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Northern Ireland, once witnessed the bombing death of Irish children, and a little girl died in Williams's arms. The girl's legs had been severed in the explosion and thrown across the street from where the woman held the bleeding child. Williams went home in shock and despair. Later, the full impact of what she'd seen jolted her awake. She stepped outside, screaming out in the middle of the night. She knocked on doors that might easily have opened with weapons pointed at her face and cried, "What kind of people have we become that we would allow children to be killed on our streets?" Within four hours the city was awake and there were sixteen thousand names on petitions for peace.