weltschmerz-0When the world hits your eye like a nasty pig sty,… that’s not amore, that’s Weltschmerz (best English translation: “world pain”). It’s a term I’ve been meaning to post about for years, since it — or rather what it defines — lies at the heart of most of my Rant posts. (Yeah, this is another Drafts post I’m finally setting free.)

Fundamentally, it speaks to a disconnect or gulf between what one feels ought to be true in the world compared to what actually is true. Implicit in the term is a moral bias regarding the ought; it doesn’t, for example, apply to the gap between wishing you were rich while being poor.

It seems to me very much a word for our times.

It’s a word in fairly common use in some circles (Go Ogle for images of Weltschmerz), and the feeling it speaks of is, I think, even more common. Very many people feel the dissonance between ought and is!


A work in spray paint by the street artist known as Faluja.

There is some challenge inherent in the word, ought. How does one decide or know what ought to be?

To some extent it’s a morals question, but I think it goes beyond just that.

We’re talking about a fundamental view of reality, a way of being that covers all one’s actions, not just the moral choice ones.

One danger with ought is trying to filter out one’s biases and desires. It’s helpful to have an external standard as a reference.

For my money, a great one is the body of literature, art, history, philosophy, and science, created by the human race thus far.

From stories and history we hear about what has worked (and why) as well as what has not worked (and why). We can live many lives, experience many experiences, from the comfort of our reading chair.

[But it’s vital — it should go without saying — to get up and go out and live and experience for yourself!]

Book Stories

Once upon a time…

A lot of my sense of Weltschmerz comes from the positive view of humanity and its abilities as related over and over in literature and history.

There is, of course, the Yang to that Yin: the dark side of humanity, also related repeatedly in those same sources.

But the point is that they reveal how good we can be when we set our minds to it. Reading realistic imaginings, as well as historical events, one quickly realizes we have the potential to make this a far better world.

Or a far worse one.

Or we can just muddle in mediocrity through a half-assed world — the infamous half-full, half-empty glass — that changes slowly and runs both hot (i.e. good) and cold (bad).

Because, let’s face it, a half glass of water is a half-assed glass of water even if you’re very happy to get it. I mean, why not a full glass, eh? (Or maybe they should have used a smaller glass.)



Weltschmerz, Megan Collier

The point I’m trying to make is that my frustration, anger, even rage, at humanity, my deep misanthropy, comes from this Weltschmerz between one view of humanity (imperfect, flawed, but capable of greatness) compared to the view I’m confronted with daily.

Every fucking day I see humans living down to their worst potential rather than up to their better ones. I see so much evil that it makes me ill.

Here is a key point: Mostly what I see makes me sad, ill, depressed, and harmed. And my general reaction to harm is anger, whether it be harm to me or to someone I care about. I’m angry because living in this world hurts. It hurts a lot.

And that pisses me off!

[Okay, case in point, as I wrote the above I got the third or fourth call this week from these fucking scam artists claiming to be calling from “Windows Service” about your computer. These pathetic excuses of humans, these fucking thieves, are just one example of what makes me want a mandatory, world-wide test for basic humanity. If you fail, we get to use your body as fertilizer. I can’t tell you how much I despise these motherfuckers. Drone strikes on all their base!]

Well, and now I’ve completely lost the thread of what I was thinking. I really should know better than to answer the phone. Ever. (But my friends complain when I don’t.)


Thief! Thief!

But you see what I mean? A perfect illustration. This is why I hate people! Far too many of you are on that side of the line! (In fact, one of those very sorts of assholes is running for President of the USA!)

Another large fraction, very large, are basically good at heart, but apparently can’t be bothered to learn much about how the world works or how to think critically (or really at all it sometimes seems).

What happens all too often is that, even though your intentions are good, your results are bad. If nothing else, you perpetuate attitudes that make progress challenging.

As just one example: Global Warming. (But we could also do creationists, anti-vaxxers, birthers, astrologers, various snake oil salesmen, or any of a variety of conspiracy nutjob ideas.)

To the astonishment of most of the world, a goodly number of USAnians deny that global warming exists. This is exactly like denying the Earth is round or that it circles the Sun.

Or that we landed on the Moon, another thing some people insist didn’t happen.


Actually happened.

A characteristic of all of these is that they are outside direct personal experience. It requires accepting a certain amount of testimony on them.

(The irony is that global warming increasing is becoming part of our direct personal experience. ‘Cause it’s, you know, true.)

The anti-intellectual, anti-science currents of today have made it hard for people to accept the word of genuine experts. (And the pretenders, more thieves or fools, have further muddied the waters.)

One of the most astonishing phrases I ever did hear was, “We have to stand up to the experts.”

Say what?!

So I suffer. And get pissed off.

At least there’s beer and baseball!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

2 responses to “Weltschmerz

  • Keeping the Sabbath | Logos con carne

    […] Those who know me know I’m a critical person and that I have high expectations of myself and of the world. I have “old fashioned” ideas and ideals (which leads to considerable Weltschmerz). […]

  • Wyrd Smythe

    “(In fact, one of those very sorts of assholes is running for President of the USA!)”

    And won! (It’s funny to look back on these posts trying to warn people about him.)

    The whole 2016 thing means I win all further arguments about, yes, people really are that bad, and, yes, things really have changed. America literally gave me a trump card.

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