Monday, August 31, 2009

The Challenge of Human Thinking

Does society allow those with depression to properly heal themselves?

I think about all the Van Gogh's and Hemingway's of the world. Too often, we're not expected to worry about ourselves, but rather we're expected to conform to the pre-existing patterns, expectations, and stereotypes of our individual cultures.

I believe that part of what's lacking is an understanding that society benefits from an improvement in the individual composition of its members.

The proverb "charity begins at home" sort of sums up my larger idea. We can't help others until we help ourselves; we can't take good care of anyone else unless we can also take good care of ourselves.

Sometimes, it's hard to focus on the more abstract parts of our lives, and society often makes it difficult for us to do that, but I think those who are able (and have the leisure) to do this, provide a great benefit to everyone else through practical innovation and cultural benefits.

Just as society is basically a bunch of individuals, I think it reflects the judgments of each individual human being. As each human is pretty bad at thinking about anything but immediate and short-term causes and effects, society as a whole shares this same blindspot.

I think it is the duty of every generation to spend some effort contemplating "unconventional wisdom". I believe that we need the status quo to retain the efficiency of past generations, but I also believe that we need modification to improve the efficiency of the status quo. Someone has to knock down and rebuild or shift the partitions of human thinking to renovate and expand the library of human knowledge.

I relish living in a time during human history when innovation and creative thought are held in relatively high esteem.

Almost every successful leader in history that has made a profound impact on the world, has made their mark by seizing the inherent optimism and hope of human beings and then harnessing their combined faith to build new and remarkable institutions and empires. How much has the depression of a leader such as Abraham Lincoln contributed to the course of history? His melancholy may have helped save the Union, and given him empathy to hold together a fragile republic during a time of chaos.

It is up to us to recognize the impact that history and science have on the events which are unfolding now so that we can improve our lot. That's what a leader does. And yet, intellectualism is a crime and ignorance is a virtue in modern American politics. I am depressed already.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Depression: Adaptation or Malfunction?

This article from Scientific American suggests that depression may play a different role in human behavior than had been previously imagined.

I found this article to be both intriguing and quite fascinating. Please read it for yourselves, and let me know your thoughts.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why I Love Rocky (Embracing Desperation Part Two)

Sylvester Stallone's film Rocky is an American classic, and I must profess my admiration of the title character, Rocky.

Rocky is a boxer down on his luck, who comes out of nowhere to make an appearance in a title bout with champion Apollo Creed.

Americans have long embraced the underdog, but that is not the only reason I identify with Rocky.

Rocky is a somewhat stereotypical boxing/sports flick, but Rocky the character has great lines.

"Why are you a fighter?" "Because I can't sing or dance."

So many of us are terribly repressed and insecure. So many of us are moody and lack confidence. So many of us are too withdrawn and shy and think we've got nothing to say to anyone.

I have a lyric for everything. I think music is a proxy for the irritation of being alone with my own personality. My life feels like a Jackson Pollack painting. I'm just pouring everything out and letting everyone else say what it means, and I'm not really sure that it even means anything at all.

I emphatically agree with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young that "fear is the lock and laughter the key" to the heart. I really do believe that.

There are so many people that are paralyzed by fear. Am I one of them?

There are so many people that wish not to be alone.

That's what Rocky wishes.

I love what he says to Adrian:

"I always knew you were beautiful."

That's how I feel - about everything, about the absurdity and uncertainty of my life and my existence, and my pursuit and perseverance not only of it, but in it.

Why do I persevere? To prove I'm no chump, just like Rocky. Rocky's not paralyzed by fear, even though he's terribly insecure. He just keeps on fighting.

"When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies, don't you want somebody to love? Don't you need to somebody to love? Wouldn't you love somebody to love? You better find somebody to love."

Great Jefferson Airplane lyrics, there.

Fear and lust, there they are again. I wrote about those two things on this blog many months ago, and still those two specters pop up yet once again in my thoughts. Is this all there is to existence? Embracing desperation, indeed.

And that's what Rocky does. And that is why I love him.

He embraces desperation. He has no chance with Adrian, no chance against Apollo Creed, no way to make it in this world -- and what does he do?

He's desperate, so he keeps going anyway. I love Rocky.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Embracing Desperation

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation,” - Thoreau.

Why do people lead lives of desperation? What are we desperate for? What do we want? What are our desires?

I think our desires, I think our desperations, give us a reason to live. I think if you cultivate that desperation, if you manage it and direct it, it will become productive.

I think our society overwhelms us with cheap antidotes to our desperation that are not worth the price. I think we sacrifice too much of our long term potential for short-term gratification.

I think we should acknowledge freely that much of our lives is spent in a state of desperation, but I think this desperation, this longing, can lead us to produce acts of beauty and kindness.

I think this desperation can leads us to be empathetic. It can also lead us to be single-minded and selfish.

We are nearly always desperate: so what are we going to do about it?

I think society refuses to acknowledge our desperation. It doesn’t sell. It’s not glamorous.

It’s been said that the truth will set you free. Perhaps, but more likely: the truth will set you adrift. But is that such a bad thing - isn’t that what freedom means? Isn’t that what freedom is – bearing some responsibility to set your own course?

Our desperation is our reason for being. Our quest for truth is our reason for knowledge: its absence compels us to find it.

When we don’t have something, that’s when we want it. If we never lacked, we would never have the joy of finding anything. Of course, if we never lacked, maybe we would have a different joy. It all depends upon whether we can appreciate what we have and where we are. If we didn’t lack, but could still appreciate our condition somehow, I don’t think we would be worse off.

Yes, we’re so desperate and gullible and afraid. That’s why advertising and propaganda succeed.

Yet it brings us together, and it tears us apart. We’re all desperate and gullible and afraid.

We all lack – we all find. It brings us together.

Quiet desperation is chronically undervalued – it’s used as a slur. It’s used as the symbol of the mid-life crisis. Life is crisis – life is change – life is transience. Why can’t we recognize and accept this?

We should accept nothing less than lives of quiet desperation.

Desperation is the basis for action – I think Thoreau wants us to be active. I don’t think he’s maligning the act of desperation so much as he is saying that it is not all that is necessary – that there is more to it than that.

If all we did was stay in the state of desperation, we will fail. That is what I believe he is trying to say, and I agree with that.

We can’t just experience desperation; we’ve also got to act. But our desperation can serve as our foundation for our actions.

But what kind of foundation are we building? Exactly what do we desire and why?

Most of our lives are not built on a strong foundation. What kind of desperation are we dealing with?

There are many corrosive desperations: fear and paranoia abound.

You can never be sure where you are. Sometimes, you do something with the best of intentions and it turns out horribly wrong.

If we never think about our desperations, and we leave them alone, then everything else that we do will be worse, because our desperations are what lie at the beginning of everything. We must check ourselves and our desperations because they are the foundation of everything we do.

We must ensure that our desperation is used for the benefit of others and not for ourselves alone.