Friday, January 13, 2012

Poor Unfortunate Souls!

Depression is such a western luxury, as you never seem to see brown people in huts with five children and no food struggling with depression, or a crippling case of anorexia. Maybe it’s because we have so much time to think about existence, so much time to ponder why we’re here and not be distracted by daily survival, that we can claim depression, but tell me if you’re really thinking – isn’t existence the most marvellous thing?

I mean, maybe your life sucks, but (cue Liza)... it's marvelous!

Recently a girlfriend told me the reason her family is in Australia is that long ago a female ancestor had stolen some jewels from her boss in England and, stupidly, wore them down to the local pub to show them off! The lady-thief was sentenced…to death. But before she was to hang, her sentence was commuted to: banishment! And off she went on a convict ship to Australia. Fascinating story, and not only would my girlfriend not be in Australia had her relative not stolen those jewels, but if that sentence had not been commuted, she wouldn’t be here at all. Simple as that. 

How lucky we are to have benefited despite the mistakes of each ancestor; the beneficence of some judges, twists of fate; counting on them to have survived scurvy, the plague, poverty, even an unappealing face long enough to successfully breed in successive generations that ultimately led to you. As if this miraculous accomplishment alone isn’t enough to boggle the mind, think of your luck in the biology department.

You conquered impossible odds to become the one sperm out of millions to successfully penetrate that one egg. That one particular egg out of how many eggs bleeding out for how many months, not to mention that one sperm from that one load of how many loads (and potential lives lost) found in crunchy handkerchiefs? 

The sheer incredibility of your existence is too remarkable to not comprehend. The most amazing thing by far is that you're here at all. Depressing, isn’t it?


Tony said...

The causes of depression are mystifying. Perhaps as you suggest it is an affliction of the (relatively) affluent who have the leisure to examine their emotional states.
One explanation has been that it's just a chemical imbalance in the brain, hence the proliferation of Prozac and similar drugs. But the brain is so complex, I'm not sure just one thing can explain it.
Just the other day I ran into a young friend at the airport. I hadn't seen or heard from him for several weeks and so I asked him how and what he was doing.
"Not well," he said. "I'm going to Baylor Medical Center for treatment for severe depression."
Was I surprised! He's a multi-talented, creative and attractive guy. He helped me with some oral history video projects I did recently. He also plays multiple keyboards in a electro-progrock-jazz fusion band. He has a girlfriend and lots of other friends and a supportive family. No question he'd lost his Joie-de-vivre. He really is an unfortunate soul at themoment. What's that all about?
I can sympathize since sometimes I feel stuck in rut and down, as I guess almost everyone does from time to time.
I can only hope my friend regains his sense of how miraculous and marvelous life is.

Jesse Archer said...

HI Tony, I also find it mystifying. I'm very sorry for your friend - and of course there are things we can never know about his situation. And maybe knowing is the problem - yes it's a miracle we're here but that knowledge doesn't translate to happiness. How simplistic was my post!
Even when you look at the uber wealthy who seem to have it all, and see them "clinically depressed" - I wonder if it's, on some level, a lack of true struggle or purpose (putting food on the table, ensuring kids are safe) that turns inward and cannibalistic?

I see certain free societies (Australia), dragged down by nanny-esque rules imposed b/c there's no authentic struggle, and I wonder if it applies on an individual level. Purpose is underrated, IMO, and absolutely essential.

Tony said...

If anyone doubts "Jesse On The Brink" is ahead of the curve, here's proof that it is. The day after Jesse posted "Poor Unfortunate Souls," as if in response, the NYT Science section put a front page article up on the subject: "Depression Defies the Rush to Find an Evolutionary Upside."
Some psychologist at the University of New South Wales found that sad subjects were better judges of deception than happy ones, presumably an evolutionary advantage. The article pretty much blows that away. Worth reading. Here's the link:

Dtown~Blog said...

I can feel fine all year, until summer break. As a teacher, I get 2 months off to "relax", yet this is never the case for me. I actually get depressed! I attribute it to the fact that I have little purpose in the summer. When I don't have a purpose (i.e. educating), I lose my sense of value and that's when all the self-defeating thoughts come. However, if I commit myself to project I feel better.

Jesse Archer said...

thanks Tony!! D-Town, I hear you re: value. Feel the same way when I'm producing or involved in something worthwhile, but also never feel defeated if sufficiently distracted. How about some foreign travel in your summer holidays?