Skyclad before the pale, he sits to write his way into the day……and in an unprecedented move, he has brought his brain with him!…..
“In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
Have the claws of depression ever set themselves in your flesh, slicing their way into your conscious mind to fill it with diffuse anxiety and deep despair? Have you sat, alone in a dark room, and thought of all that you have lost? Does the sunshine make you angry for being so cheerful? When depression rears its ugly head and takes over the soul, the world loses all its color and warmth; everything you see is grey and shadowed, and somehow menacing. Being alone becomes a penance, a sentence for violations of natural law, and sleep is the only surcease from the crushing weight that weighs down the mind, and soul. All the goodness in the world seems far away, and unattainable by any effort we can make. Even hope becomes uncomfortable, because of the fear it will turn out to be false. Thoughts and feelings feel out of control, and the simplest tasks can become a challenge to your reduced level of functioning. Believe me when I say, being depressed is no picnic, and you still get the ants……
Having been a psychiatric technician for so long, I know the effects of depression very well, from both sides of the therapeutic relationship, having treated many depressed individuals, and having suffered its claws myself due to PTSD. It is a difficult condition to treat, from a therapist’s viewpoint, as it is difficult to help someone find the light when they want to sit in the dark, and close their eyes against the light. And from the other side, the negative filter through which a depressed individual views the world denies any possibility of change. For reasons which are still unclear, a person who becomes depressed is actually more comfortable in that state than they are when they are not influenced by its debilitating symptoms. And from having experienced it myself, I can tell you without hesitation that it is insidiously powerful, and incredibly hard to set aside in order to get back to a more stable mental state, one in which the world again becomes beautiful, the spirit once again takes flight, and life regains its attraction once more…….
The sense of death is most in apprehension;
And the poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.
— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Measure for Measure — Act iii, Sc. 1
I usually steer clear of using Shakespeare, as his work has been over-used, and IMHO is over-rated anyway. He did write a lot of beautiful passages, and should be considered as a master of the sonnet as well as the play. But I like this one, both for the creative beauty of his phrasing and structure, and for the idea behind it, which I see as a clear observation of the interconnectedness of all life-forms. We’re born, we live, and we die, thus completing the cycle of existence as per the natural laws of this universe (or at least as far as we know those laws…..). And every other creature on this planet goes through the same cycle of birth, life, death, birth, life, death, etc…, until one can only conclude that we must be alike in other ways as well, and are thereby connected in some fashion, both to the universe, and to each other. This connection puts us all on the same level, at least in the eyes of the universe; no form of life escapes death. We humans, though intelligent, curious, and supremely adaptive to new environments, have no advantage over the tiniest creature on Earth, for we all will face our mortality in the end.
Thus our sense of entitlement, of being the top of the food chain, is not justified, for we have no more power over death than the smallest, weakest life form in our world. Species discrimination based on intelligence is foolish; we must come to terms with our own mortality and accept our position in the universe, not above other forms of life, but shoulder to shoulder. We may as well, because we’re going to die anyway; it’s best to try to approach it with some dignity based on fact, rather than unjustified delusion…..
“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” — Thumper (1942)
Bill Russell, the former professional basketball player, is considered by many fans to be the best defensive player ever to play the game. He played the game with studied intensity, and with complete dignity, approaching the contests with the same attitude he approached life. He was a proponent of the above attitude, one we all learned as a child, watching Bambi and Thumper inflict their terminal cuteness on unsuspecting children in a theater near you. And, as far as it goes, it is a good piece of advice, well worth considering, and useful in teaching manners. But, as with any childish conclusion, it doesn’t go quite far enough. But Bill said this, “One should play the game as a gentleman, always. But, there are times when an elbow to the chops is the only way to make a point.” (My apologies to Bill, as the quote is a paraphrase, the original being unavailable to check for accuracy; the point it makes is intact)
Yes, being nice to each other is the best way to approach living with others, and not speaking never got anyone into trouble over what they said. But the rules for behavior amongst ourselves need to be very flexible, and subject to revision moment by moment. There are too many facets to the human mind to ever consider limiting one’s choices of how to react to any particular situation. This is reinforced by the nature of reality, i.e. constant unpredictable changes are normal, so once again, limiting how we choose to act is an inappropriate response, and doomed to failure. As a human, we need to embrace that part of us that is flexible, and creative, in order to have the best chance of dealing with reality while still staying sane……
Speaking of sanity, keeping mine is going to require some work today, so I’ll be off now to pursue other activities, reluctantly. I will leave you with the following thoughts…..
All men are poets at heart
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
All poets are mad
— Robert Burton
Y’all take care out there…..
Sometimes I sits and thinks,
I just sits.