Facing down the Black Dog

black dog

Perhaps it is best to acknowledge the endless pawing of the black dog at your door.  For some, it is a rare day that the gentle scuffling can not be heard.

There have only been two (albeit quite lengthy) periods over the past 60 years where the dog has torn at my throat and the pit has lain open before me.  But it is all too rare that that he leaves the neighbourhood entirely.

I have sometimes called it existential anxiety. I have sometimes wondered whether it is a mere personality trait – a tendency to look for meaning and explanation in a deeply puzzling universe.  An apparent need to question anything and everything in the quest for answers.

The answers must be there somewhere but not all in one place. You can not expect to go to your local corner store and buy a remedy.  It is here, there and everywhere, all in bits and pieces.

Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford. By Philip Talmage, CC BY-SA 2.0
Sir Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford. By Philip Talmage, CC BY-SA 2.0

There are aspects of my personality I would not do without.  It has placed me in an ivory tower, endlessly seeking knowledge. Or perhaps more accurately “understanding”.   And that is where I belong.

I have known people with great “knowledge” but very little “understanding”; they may be clever people, but they merely accumulate facts. The do not analyse or interpret them. Wisdom comes from the ability to find meaning in facts, not from merley collecting them.

hamster wheel
hamster wheel

Over the years I have been driven by a restlessness; endless change driven by a mistaken belief that the answer lies in some sort of physical externality.  Changes of career, moving around the world. From distant cities to cold snowy mountains.

And yet eventually a clarity of sorts has emerged. The first is the ever stronger realization that the answer can only be found within, in both a philosophical and physiological sense.

I have become a viewer from far, far away of the Pale Blue Dot.  Almost a quietist.  I have become amused by the endless hamster wheel of existence, the blind futility which so many seem so unable to escape.

The amassing of wealth, the worship of prestige, the laughable pretension and snobbery.  Violence, cruelty, greed. Lust, envy and hatred.

Once you have seen that the emperor is naked, there is no going back.

There is undoubtedly a strong physiological element to it all. In time, the answer to that too will be found. In the meantime it is a question of quiet acceptance and great, great care in everything one does and says and eats and drinks.  Both physically and philosophically.

Scuffling at the door
Scuffling at the door





  1. I have to ask, as some snatches of your effortlessly pleasing prose touch upon the mystical: have you now or have you ever had what I call The Mystical Experience of Reality (MER)?



    1. Hmmm….I have had brief encounters but as you can tell I have been looking for them my entire life. I shall read your essays with much care and great enjoyment. I have sought enlightenment for some years; so far with lamentable lack of success!

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