Gazing into the Abyss

Posted on June 18, 2011


I will admit it. I’m a fan of the TV show Criminal Minds. I know the show illustrates the seamier side of life. I don’t watch the show reveling in those things. The two things that I enjoy most about the show are: 1) the challenge of trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together along with the FBI agents in figuring out who the Unsub is and what is actually going on; and 2) the philosophical quote(s) that are sometimes thrown in during the show, and the ones that always occur at the end of the show as the agents debrief about the case. The following quote is one of the throw-ins. At one point, Agent Reid says “When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.” When I tried to track down this quote I found it was part of a longer quote from Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”

The whole quote is “Battle not with monsters, lest you become a monster. When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.” Most commentators suggest that Nietzsche was trying to say that if you spend too much time with evil, you will fall into evil.

I would like to suggest another possibility for those of us living with aphasia, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s, or for those who serve as our caregivers. Spending too much time concentrating on what has been taken away, can draw us deeper into the abyss of negativity and depression. I know from personal experience how easy it is to get frustrated when I can’t do things that I could previously do almost without effort. When that happens I have to shift gears and listen to the other voice that says but look at what you can do. You are a person. You are alive. You still have so much to offer others. One of the most important things we can do is to stand on the edge of that abyss and warn others so that they can avoid falling into it.