Even if things end up a bit too heavy

[1] I saw this on a tumblr post recently:

“Depression is humiliating. It turns intelligent, kind people into zombies who can’t wash a dish or change their socks. It affects the ability to think clearly, to feel anything, to ascribe value to your children, your lifelong passions, your relative good fortune. … You alienate your friends because you can’t comport yourself socially, you risk your job because you can’t concentrate, you live in moderate squalor because you have no energy to stand up, let alone take out the garbage. You become pathetic and you know it. And you have no capacity to stop the downward plunge…” (complete post here.)

I mostly can’t relate to this post at this point in my life, but I have in the past, and I do find honesty in the words. (This is also a relatable take on depression.) I could probably be diagnosed as depressed, although it’s been years since I last went to a therapist, and I’m highly skeptical of psychiatric practices and the pharmaceutical industry. I can tell when I’m being manipulated, and I’m resistant to it in a way that most people must not be.

I do take depression screening tests regularly, though—morbid curiosity—and I usually fall somewhere in the category of mild depression, even on good days. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about philosophy and my place in the profession/discipline. The two are not unrelated. Of course, this isn’t true of all people who do work in philosophy, but it is true of me. And Foucault. And John Stuart Mill. And William James. And Nietzsche. (And Boris Yeltzin, oddly.)

Depression screening tests always trip me up on this question: “Do you think your future is hopeless?”

Well, of course I find my future to be hopeless. I find everybody’s future to be hopeless. I’m a tiny little piece of matter in a vast and indifferent universe, and someday I’m going to die. And you can give me all the platitudes you’d like about carving our your place, sharing your life with people who care about you, doing what you can with the time you’ve got, but I don’t work that way.

There’s a reason why most people don’t process their thoughts the way I do. Most people don’t think about the big picture, and that’s the first place I go. The big picture is not a happy one, but it’s not a sad one either. It’s indifferent. And that’s okay.

Depression screening tests also trip me up on this question: “Have you lost interest in aspects of your life that used to be important to you?”

Of course I’ve lost interest in aspects of my life that I used to think were important, because they weren’t important. I was led to believe they were important, but once I put some thought into it, I realized they weren’t. And the society that people have created isn’t really one I want to participate in for the most part.

I don’t understand how people can selectively care about things. Not only am I a big picture thinker, I’m a complete gray area thinker. I’m not anchored to any particular set of beliefs, unless contingency counts—and contingency isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can cling to. It could all be otherwise, so why is anything more important than anything else? Why should I care about making more money? Why should I care about making art? Why should I try?

We’ll all float on anyway.

The obvious response to me is that you feel more strongly about certain things than others, which is fine. I just don’t have strong emotional responses to things or to most people. Most of the time, I have to work to understand other people’s emotional reactions. I have a tendency to intellectualize everything instead, and then find a set of reasons to explain it.

Apparently this makes me come across as misanthropic and unempathetic, neither of which I am, but I can understand why it might seem that way. And that’s okay too.

Alienation used to be akin to madness, and in certain ways, I suppose it still is.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a constant jumble of thoughts in my head futilely attempting to figure out everything in the universe. Sometimes I wish I could understand the normal drives that people have to find a partner, to start a family, etc. Sometimes I even wish I had just given in and stayed in engineering, or advertising, or law.

Sometimes I’m pretty sure the only thing that keeps me connected to other people at all is my sense of humor. If you don’t understand my humor, you probably think I’m an awful person, and I may very well be.

Just like not placing a whole lot of value on my own life might mean I’m depressed.

But I just can’t philosophically commit to any other position.


[1] Title comes from Modest Mouse’s “Float On.”

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2 thoughts on “Even if things end up a bit too heavy

  1. It’s interesting that especially the big picture respectively the thinking about seems troubling you. This, interesting enough, reminds me of a part of my Ph.D. thesis. You see, the problem Heidegger sees is that because of our finitude making sense can only work in a small “local” frame you could say. From a mathematical point of view (from one mathematician to another) better said from a topological point of view world is only homogenous locally but never globally. Homogeneity here means like sense connected (so at least coherent). Sense is essential for comprehension.
    Non comprehension then can appear as indifference. Seems probably the most appropriate way to see it.

    Heidegger’s solution in the end is a kind of serenity but I’m afraid that’s not helpful for a lot of people. Still I think his metaphysics of world projections is a good one, it’s a metaphysics of finitude including all the problems that comes with that.

    Well, that’s the thought which crossed my mind. It’s too bad I can’t send you my work yet because it’s in German, but at some point in the future I will translate it.

    from the gray but homelike Germany greets you
    Stefan

    P.S. Sorry for the little advertisement for my own work but I’m kind of consumed by that at the moment concerning the (most likely) fact that I will turn in my thesis in November.

    P.P.S. You left out the other pictures of the Charlie Brown comic strip, so nicht junge Dame
    http://maggieosullivan.blogspot.de/2009/08/depression-according-to-charlie-brown.html

    • I’m terrible at using this blog, so I apologize for not responding until now. As I said to you before, I think your work on Heidegger is intriguing and is maybe an “ethics” that actually makes sense, unlike all the others. So yes, you should translate it. Because you know very well I’ll never be able to read it in German. Hah!

      I think I’m tripped up by my own finitude a lot. Which sounds weird probably, but I can’t ignore the infinite and that frustrates me. I think perhaps I should do what normal people do and just accept it without trying to come up with an explanation for it. Or I should deny it altogether, but that’s not particularly satisfying either.

      Also, I had forgotten about the rest of the comic strip. I think Charles Schulz just… got it.

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