"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. "
- Henry David Thoreau
Postulate a lonely man. He has already accomplished his dreams in life. And he is married to a woman whom he worships. He has a beautiful baby son, whom he adores. The wife hates this man, though. She is depressed, and constantly anxious when in the company of the man. Perhaps he beats her, perhaps he yells at her, or perhaps he simply tries too hard. Posit whichever makes the most sense to you, but reality is often surprising in its lack of a need for justification, particularly when emotions are concerned. This lonely man has nothing more he hopes for in his life, other than to grow old with his family, and love them, and be loved in return. But the wife is unable to live with this. She desires other company, seeks something more in life. This man tries his hardest to endear himself to her, but she has long since lost all love and attraction for him, and his attempts merely earn contempt. She wants to leave, go far away, and take their precious son. She wants a new life, away from him. She has had her fill of him, and realized he is not the man whom she thought him to be.
This man is full of confusion and desperation. He tries to communicate, to mend, to appease, but nothing helps. Eventually, resigned, he realizes that she wants nothing to do with him any more, and he cannot change deep convictions forged with a will of iron such as she posseses.
Though hurt, he truly desires that she be happy. He especially desires that his son be happy. So what is the noble course? To continue on in his life, supporting the lost and distant son? He can provide for the son, as it is unlikely the wife could support herself and her son well. And it would give him comfort to know he was saving his son from poverty. But the memories of the smiles, of both former lover and son. Knowing the smiles of his son were changing, daily, aging into childhood, into adolescence, into manhood. And his sole exposure to them will be periodic snapshots of a growing son. A son who vaguely remembers horsey rides and picnics and play sessions with a father, a man who helps him and his mother. But he calls a new man father now, and it's so confusing to have two fathers. There is the father he lives with, with his mother, who may try to be a good father, may be abusive, may be perfect, may be perfectly horrible. But this new father is who the son sees daily and grows to know as Father. And there is the sad man who sends him money. The man who tells him how much he loves his son, but the son can only vaguely remember the father, and feel confusion and hurt. Why did this father abandon him? Perhaps it's easier to just accept his fathers money, tolerate his visits from far away, periodically, and hate him in private.
The mother, meanwhile, has a difficult time, as well. She moves on in life. Perhaps she eventually realizes how much the former husband cared for her. Probably she remembers him for the rest of her days as the man who she was always sad with. Maybe leaving him was a mistake
. Or maybe she goes elsewhere, and finds someone she truly loves
, and lives a happy life
. The former husband is relegated to at best, a faint memory
, and at worst, the man who made her miserable
for years of her life, though she can't really explain how he made her miserable.
Is this the noble action for this lonely man? It is a tragedy, certainly. A long, painful horror for the man, losing everything he had hoped for, and watching the ones he loves fade away from his life.
Perhaps anticipation of this horror sparks meditation in this man. He reads philosophy
. He searches for a meaning. And all he can find in his searches for enlightenment is a reaffirmation of his love for his family. Fight to keep his family going. He refuses to believe his wife could be happier without him. "It must be a depression
. It must be something she seeks in herself, because I am trying to be everything to her." Is it this? Or is he fooling himself? Is it too painful to accept that he isn't sufficient?
What is noble?
To let her go? To give her his blessing
? To try not to lose his son to inevitability
? To struggle on, without them, leaving a bitter taste in the mental palate
of those he loves? Or would it be noble to fight on, try to keep the marriage alive, to the continued emotional pain
of his wife?