A note on “weltschmerz” and staying optimistic in a painful world

By Florian Pock

First things first: this is a very personal post and therefore isn’t scientific at all (as I am not a scientist myself). But what could be more political and artistic than to express yourself?

I want to introduce English speakers to a German term: weltschmerz. It literally translates to “world-pain” and expresses the feeling of sadness and melancholy for all the evil and bad in the world. And without wanting to be all pretentious I must say that this feeling accompanies me in my life. I read about the slow (but hastening) dying of our environment, slavery, poverty, terrorism and war. And I experience social pressure, homophobia, sexism (towards all the women I care so much for, but also against my own femininity) and emotional apathy in my personal life. And maybe you can relate to this, dear reader. If so, I know this can be a heavy burden and some people will mock you for your “naive” craving for a better world with less suffering. And you might be willing to accept the cynicism and surrender to the weltschmerz and just stop caring.

But sometimes, if you pay attention, you can see (and more importantly, feel) that there is more than “schmerz” in our world. There are people that dedicate their whole lives to the protection of our environment; there are organisations fighting against the violation of human rights; June is pride month and all over the world the LGBTQ+ community and allies are fighting for rights and owning and celebrating their own lives and achievements. There are passionate people fighting for women’s-rights and femininity all over the world. And most importantly, there are so many kind and caring people all over the world, true humanitarians that oppose the cynicism.

You might ask yourself why I am writing this. Well, today was a very painful day (on a personal level) for me, and I could feel myself getting cynical and hateful, but then I met a friend. We talked about all the pain in the world, but more importantly, we talked about love and caring about others. She helped me to stay true to myself, to preserve my humanism – and my humanity. And maybe I can share some of this with you, because despite all the weltschmerz, we are so many! There is hope! There is a reason to be optimistic! And together we can fight pain and misery in this world.


Florian Pock has been GAPA’s Treasurer since its founding in 2015. He currently lives in Graz, Austria.

Sadie Hale

London-based postgraduate student in Gender & Sexuality Studies. On the side: playing ukulele, exploring, cinema!

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