Melancholia, Depression, and Treatment Models

‘Melancholy’, by Edgar Degas

I’d like to twine two recent essays from separate authors into a whole (hopefully) thought-provoking diary.  These issues are almost too germane to what so many of us are facing now, given what many call ‘end-state capitalism and end-state Western Imperialism/neoliberalism’. Since I love the painting, and the first author’s M-term is a bit more gentle than the other, I’ll start with:

‘In Praise of Melancholia’ by Mark Kernan, April 17, naked capitalism via

Kernan had subtitled his essay: ‘Without knowing the extremes of sadness and joy we can never fully know or feel all that life is’, which concept we’d been batting around here recently.  He veers briefly into a consideration of behavioral epigenetics (or ‘How Nurture Shapes Nature’, a worthy topic, but beyond the reach of what I’m borrowing from him for now: the benefits of melancholia in the abstract, not possible ‘generational melancholia’.

The author brings in any number of philosophical quotes and Buddhist traditions to ballast his thesis; allow me to bring a few:

“There is something so enchanting in the smile of melancholy. It is a ray of light in the darkness, a shade between sadness and despair, showing the possibility of consolation.” Leo Tolstoy

“Philosophers have long entertained the idea that melancholy and creativity are inter-connected.  Friedrich Nietzshe said that the suffering brought on by melancholy—“this evening twilight devil” as he called it—was vital to the mind and soul, even sacred. Suffering and difficulty, he thought, must be embraced, cultivated, and carefully crafted.

Without some kind of torment present in the soul, nothing of real or lasting value or beauty can be created. Without that dichotomy of emotional experiences; without knowing the extremes of sadness and joy, we can never fully know or feel all that life is. Similarly, Soren Kierkegaard wrote that melancholy was his “intimate confidant,” his “most faithful mistress,” and a place where he found “bliss.” Like Nietzsche, he thought that the suffering brought on by angst—melancholia’s more animated cousin you might say—was a necessary prerequisite for creativity.”

“In the Buddhist tradition, Avalokiteshvara, the “Buddha to be” who is worshipped in both male and female forms has vowed to postpone enlightenment until s/he has released all sentient beings from Dukkha, the Sanskrit word for suffering. Suffering in Buddhism is understood as one of the four great Noble Truths. In the Fire Sermons, preached over two and half thousand years ago, the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, said that we live with delusion or avidya caused by suffering, and as a result we are “burning:”

“The mind is burning, ideas are burning, mind-consciousness is burning …           Burning with what? I say it is burning with birth, aging and death, with               sorrows, with lamentations, with pains, with griefs, with despairs.”

Hence, suffering and the sadness it brings is a universal part of human experience—a visceral part of who we are at our very core. We can run from this truth if we want to, but it will catch up with us in the end. There is no hiding place, and no amount of 21st century consumption or other distractions will douse our burnings.”

His link above goes to the Secular Buddhist Association’s ‘What’s Burning in the Fire Sermon?’, a more complex and nuanced take on Gautama Buddha’s sutras, including form-and-name as underpinning consciousness, etc., and the need to abandon those pre-conceived beliefs.  But I digress.

Karnan goes on to separate melancholia from depression, quoting Susan Sontag’s having noted that ‘depression is melancholy minus the charms’.  His link opens to a long and worthy essay by Carina del Valle Schorske on ‘Melancholy and the Examined Life’ in which she wonders if all ‘melancholics’ are indeed ‘charming’.  But this passage struck a major chord for me (perhaps a minor one, given that those are so often the chords of grief, reflection, and pain), and I’ll amplify on the reasons later on.

“The pharmacological discourse of depression has not entirely replaced the romantic discourse of melancholy. But on the whole, contemporary American culture seems committed to a final solution.

Both stigmatization and sanctification come with real ethical dangers. On the one hand, there is the danger that hidden in the wish for the elimination of depressive symptoms is a wish for the elimination of other essential attributes of the depressed person—her posture of persistent critique, her intolerance for small talk. On the other hand there is the danger of taking pleasure in the pain of the melancholic, and of adding the expectation of insight to the already oppressive expectations the melancholic likely has for herself. But these ethical dangers are not simply imposed on the unfortunate person from the outside. It is not only the culture at large that oscillates between understanding psychological suffering as a sign of genius and a mark of shame. The language used in both discourses bears a striking resemblance to the language the depressed person uses in her own head.”

But back to Karnan:

“Melancholy is a particular kind of sadness, an emotion born of suffering but reflective rather than creating a debilitating depression. Melancholy also has a faint quality of mourning, even a kind of grief, but for what? Our lost innocence? All that is lost in the past, and all that will be lost in the future? The human condition is full of bewilderment, misunderstanding, loss and grief because we will lose the people we love, and because things will not work out in the ways we want, so mourning and regret are inevitable.”

Although he sees depression as paralyzing and causing one to live in the ‘claustrophobic confines’ of one’s head, rather than opening doors to self-knowledge as melancholy can ‘open these claustrophobic walls to acceptance and self-knowledge’, we know that the ‘depression’ is too easily diagnosed by the US medical establishment (see: BigPharma’s ‘final solution’) even when it’s of short duration, and may at other times present as mere ‘melancholia’.

But bless his heart, toward the end Karman pronounces:

“If we are to stay sane in the world we must actively seek out this kind of melancholy, for if we don’t we won’t be able to understand ourselves fully. We risk one-dimensionality and superficiality—two of the many curses brought on by 21st century capitalism. This cannot be self-indulgent, nor just another excuse to inflict even more pain on our ‘guilty,’ ‘undeserving’ and unexamined selves.

In her introduction to the Karman’s essay, Yves Smith had linked to the pdf of a piece she’d written in 2008: The Dark Side of Optimism; Why looking on the bright side keeps us from thinking critically.

Yeah, okay; many of you may be remembering Monty Python’s ‘Always look on the bright side…♪ tra la la ♫’…  Moving onward:

A friend had recently sent me the following essay from Counterpunch, knowing that it would be of high interest to me: I hope it will be to all of you as well.

From Bruce Levine, April 18: ‘Anti-Authoritarian Options for Suicidal Anti-Authoritarians’

While noting that correlation doesn’t equal causation, Levine notes that suicide rates in the US, suicide rates have skyrocketed as has the use of anti-depressants.  He then wonders if ‘all people’ (meaning the mental health world) view suicide (or suicide ideation, I’d add) as being a symptom of a ‘metal health issue for which standard psychiatric treatment is the most effective remedy’, or might it be viewed in other ways?

Now straightaway, it bothers me that he equates ‘standard treatment’ with BigPharma drugs, but it seems to have been the trend for psychiatric treatment for years, if not decades.  Come to think of it, since the Reagan era.  “Close the mental hospitals: let them eat their pills on the street!” stuff.  But still, fancy the time spent prescribing a pill-fix, compared to talk therapy/counseling.

“Or”, Levine asks, “Or, for some people, could being suicidal be regarded—and cared for—in other ways?”

He goes on to cite grisly stats such as:

“A US sub-population with an especially large increase in suicide and with high antidepressant use is middle-aged women. The suicide rate for women age 45 to 64 increased by 63% from 1999 to 2014, and by 2008, 23% of women 40–59 years of age were taking antidepressants (with more recent estimates of antidepressant use in this population stating, “the figure is one in four”).

Among young people in the US, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-34 and the third leading cause of death among those aged 10-14; and among students in grades 9-12, 17% seriously considered attempting suicide and 8% attempted suicide one or more times in the previous 12 months. Mental health authorities tell us that the problem is that treatment is not available enough; however, among those 18 years of age and younger in the US, the number taking antidepressants more than tripled between 1987 and 1996; further increased by 50% between 1998-2002, and increased by 26% between 2005-2012.”

“Antidepressants for young people, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, are suicidogenic. Based on placebo-controlled trials of nine different antidepressants, the FDA in 2004 ordered warning labels of increased risk of suicidality (suicidal thinking and attempts) for children using antidepressants; these warnings were updated in 2007 to also include increased suicidality risk for adults aged 18-24 using antidepressants. A cautionary note: If you abruptly stop taking antidepressants or lower the dose too quickly, one of many possible withdrawal adverse effects is feeling suicidal.”

He writes that for anti-authoritarians, these drugs don’t really ease their feelings of isolation, alienation, loss, oppression in their jobs, school experiences, poverty, unemployment, etc.  Yes, how well we know those feelings of not fitting in with the ‘good amerikans who devote their lives mindlessly to being amiable producers of wealth, as well as growing into avid consumers of all the newest toys, gizmos, and fashionable items that denote ‘success’.  For many anti-authoritarians who haven’t quite yet twigged to the fact that it’s not them, it’s the system that’s rubbish, they’re simply apt to blame themselves for their deep societal alienation.

Now in this essay, Levine hasn’t bothered defining what he means by anti-authoritarians’, wondering if he’d meant the tragi-comical parallel ‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’ diagnosis.  Curious, I did a bit of digging, and found this clue that he’d penned in 2014 (lots of interesting links there at Z) in part:

“A frequently used psychiatric diagnosis for rebellious young people is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). This so-call “disorder” was created by a committee within the American Psychiatric Association and listed, in 1980, in the APA’s diagnostic manual, the then DSM-III. ODD’s symptoms include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules” and “often argues with adults.” Since 1980, ODD has become an increasingly popular psychiatric diagnosis for young people, with an increasing number of those diagnosed being drugged for this “condition.”

In 2012, the Archives of General Psychiatry reported that between 1993-2009, there was a seven-fold increase of children 13 years and younger being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs (which include Haldol, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Abilify, and Seroquel) and that nonpsychotic “disruptive behavior disorders”—which includes ODD—were the most common diagnoses in children medicated with antipsychotics, accounting for 63 percent of those medicated. Antipsychotics are extremely tranquilizing and subduing and they are among the most dangerous psychiatric drugs, causing obesity, diabetes, and “life-shortening adverse effects” (reported in the American Family Physician in 2010).”  (ADHD as well.)

So perhaps he has meant that, at least for youngsters.  Some of us, of course, will have acted out our feelings of alienation in (ahem) more covert ways, or had largely withheld them until we became ‘adults’.  Remember when public schools had windows?  “Stop daydreaming about what’s outside!”  Even here, schools are built to resemble prisons, built of block, with small narrow ‘windows’ that look as they could accommodate gun turrets.  Problem solved.

Options for Suicidal Anti-Authoritarians

Some anti-authoritarians challenge the idea that their suicidality is evidence of mental illness. David Webb, author of Thinking About Suicide, is one of those anti-authoritarians. Webb attempted suicide several times and was psychiatrically treated. He ultimately concluded that it was unhelpful to view feeling suicidal as a consequence of mental illness, and he came to believe that the “mental illness approach” medicalizes what he views as a “sacred crisis of the self.”

For Webb, “Contrary to the assumptions behind the mental illness approach, it is possible to see thinking about suicide as a healthy crisis of the self, full of opportunity, despite its risks.” For Webb, taking the opportunity to ask questions about the self that is in crisis “has the potential to open up possibilities for a deeper experience of the self, which for some, such as myself, can be a pathway out of suicidality.

There is little controversy that it is helpful for people who are suicidal to be open about their feelings. However, if being suicidal is viewed as a symptom of mental illness, Webb notes, “talking about your suicidal feelings runs the very real risk of finding yourself being judged, locked up and drugged.” So, many critically-thinking suicidal anti-authoritarians don’t reach out.”

He then writes that for many, being labeled ‘mentally ill’ for having deep pain and thoughts of suicide is too often counter-productive, rather than freeing, as society so stigmatizes mental illness that the formulation can drive them deeper into despair and hopelessness.

“In contrast, what’s helpful for many suicidal people is validation that their pain is evidence of their soul and their humanity. For anti-authoritarians such as Webb, it is helpful to view feeling suicidal as a “genuine and authentic human experience that is to be honored and respected.”

Perhaps one day such ‘crises of self’ might be seen as celebrated rites of passage into increased self-awareness, no?  In a better, more sane world?

(Hamlet’s Ophelia, as portrayed by John Everett Mills, singing as she drowns in a river in Denmark; we can easily imagine Virginia Woolf in the River Ouse as the tragic victim.)

Dearest (Leonard),
I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times.’ 
(the heart-breakingly poignant rest of her note is here.)

43 responses to “Melancholia, Depression, and Treatment Models

  1. Wonderful post WD. It resonates in so many ways.
    I have long recognised the pathological nature of U.S. society and fully understand how medicalized it has become.
    Starting with the educational system, which robs parents of their children at a very early age, and has 12 – 13 years to fully steal their humanity with indoctrination and subseriance to authority.
    In the 14 years I’ve been gone it has spiraled downward at an ever increasing rate.
    Depression is my constant companion and seems a very healthy response to a sick world.
    For me suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem; alas, I know this is not true for everybody.
    Besides, I want to know how it ends in the natural course of my life…

    • you’re welcome, v arnold. i’m sorry to hear that depression is your constant companion, and in some cases, but not all, suicide is driven by temporary problems. there are many cases where the pain, suffering, illnesses, etc. are permanent, and i totally understand the final option. my mother committed suicide decades ago, and i truly believe that she suffered for so long that her soul and spirit never could have been healed. i also discovered that no one can provide another with the will to live.

      she comes to me in my dreams now and again. this week in fact, meaning that i still haven’t worked thru my complicated relationship w/ her. ha, fuck me; i was trying to do bodywork on her with the help crutch that was in bed w/ me. paging uncle zigmund… not really, i do know what it’s about, as well as the dreams of my father, too.

      but it really is all of a piece in this deranged, managed, society, isn’t it? at school board meetings here: “hey! our son graduated from this (piece of rubbish) school…and HE’s pullin’ down $100 k a year! not too shabby!” ah well, no use going on about all my wasted efforts trying to improve school for the kids here…

  2. Wow. Just wow. All I can say at the moment in response to this amazing post, and articles…..I am struck by the resemblance of the young Virginia Woolf to my Ellspeth.

    I’ve suffered from terrible melancholia, depression, since my divorce in 1981, from which I’ve never truly recovered. And here is synchronicity again – the date of this post is April 22 – the 39th anniversary of my first date with my ex-wife. Today. She reached out to me in 2002 and again in 2006. For various reasons, I wasn’t able to have a conversation with her, though I thought about her almost every single day. When I was diagnosed with cancer this year, I knew I wanted to have one more conversation with her before I die. Then I was afraid to look at the results until three weeks ago – and I discovered that she died in 2010.

    I have much more to say about my views about depression, creativity and medication. But that will have to come later, for various reasons….

    Thank you for this amazing post.

    • welcome, c seeker. do you mean that ellspeth looks like the young woman in john everett mills’ painting? or resembles her in other ways? the wiki says who he used as his model for ophelia. the painting has its very own wiki page…

      but how strange that once you’d decided to contact your ex-, you’d discovered she’d died/transitioned/crossed over that long ago. thinking of depression as a ‘crisis in self’, have you ever looked for, or found, a counselor that could ask you some of the right (as in helpful) questions about it? or are you content to keep those parts of you alive, if they’re not debilitating and incapacitating?

      well, the thread’s here when you’re ready, amigo. oh, and if you get some help making other auxiliary email accounts (suggestion: invite a twelve-yr-old kid to help ;-D), if you sign up for emails of comments of posts, you can locate your comments more easily. also, not likely on a phone, but otherwise, the 15 recent comments list on the right sidebar let us all know who’s commented on which thread recently.

  3. Well chosen and woven, wd.

    Kernan’s transposition of Nietzsche’s thoughts on suffering difficulties and embracing challenges is tempered well with his inclusion of del Valle Schorske’s caution of both branding depression on the one hand and glorifying melancholia on the other. I would add that among the medicated is a self-stamp of approval by weekend warrior-types that embitters those of us who see these pills popped like candy corn that never solved their own suffering.

    Timely too is talk of aims at quelling rebellion, what with the recent revelation regarding Plath’s letters to Dr Ruth Barnhouse in which she says her husband wanted her dead. And Mills’ Ophelia echoes in my melancholic mind memories of Mary Eno Pinchot Meyer.

    Not that I’m only creatively driven by conspiracy considerations. But certainly big pharma is part of a program whose goals both good and ill will most certainly have longer term effects. Whether these express themselves in the following generations genetically will be conveniently uncorroborated by science because “correlation does not equal causation” forever and ever.

    I don’t know if we have free will or not, but I’m sure there are people interested in breeding a species free of whatever that is. And while I am reticent to bathe in the virtue of melancholia, it would seem that depressive contemplation can fuel a better understanding of existential predicaments. I wouldn’t want to forgo that so long as suffering otherwise continues.

    But I’m also not sure.

    • ta, herr ahem davidly, and thanks for your contributions. i’ll need to be bingling some of your references, but could you amplify on this one please? “with the recent revelation regarding Plath’s letters to Dr Ruth Barnhouse in which she says her husband wanted her dead.”

      i’d wanted to go back to Valle Schorske’s piece, but it looks as though i’d never linked to it; i’ll take care of it in the OP, but as w/ so many of the other links, there is so much to read more deeply, contemplate, and consider about how many choices we do have, how many are pre-written, and the difficulties of jettisoning the rulers’ programming.

      i suppose that in regard to melancholia, i do believe that if it’s not permanent, it’s of inestimable worth, myself. i was thinking about the discussions we’ve had over andre vltchek’s writing and whether or not he’s spiritual, religious, etc. but clearly to me he is as spiritual as they come, as he can feel the pain of so many oppressed people he’s met around the globe. the theme in de V S’s about ’empathy or theft’ was timely, as well.

      as far as breeding only compliant people: sure, and the final solutions mentioned take you right to “Meanwhile, pharmaceutical researchers have voted with their feet. Their journals are home to a growing number of articles on the prospects for exploiting epigenetic mechanisms for drug therapy”, and i’dd add the likelihood of genetic modification as well.

      when i watch some of the big programs by the gates foundation, it’s clear to me…who counts, and who should be havin’ fewer babies, for instance. well, that’s just one of their social engineering schemes, but they’re world heroes!

      but look at vltchek on north korea. love in action, empathy in action. theft? i’d say not, but i do grasp the idea of that concept, i reckon.

      • Surely. I suppose for some his mistreatment of her was long established fact, but the way this reads, it was new to me:

        • jayzus. new to me as well, but then i’d never read some of the more bald poems she’d written in ’62. ah, the art of the non-denial denial:
          ‘This article was updated on 12 April 2017 to add a statement from the Ted Hughes estate on behalf of Carol Hughes, the poet’s widow: “The claims allegedly made by Sylvia Plath in unpublished letters to her former psychiatrist, suggesting that she was beaten by her husband, Ted Hughes, days before she miscarried their second child are as absurd as they are shocking to anyone who knew Ted well.”

          later i’ll check the link to hughes’ denial poem. bastard.

  4. Good Morning wendye,
    Beautiful elaboration and enlightening beside the Levine piece which I had noticed. My current “family,” challenge is conveying any expanded view of, “treatment,” as I begin to further understand the current regimen and practice being employed. So far, I am heartened by openly communicative care givers. Much obliged.

    Thanks also to both commentators. Inclusion and the absolute value of diversity have always extended beyond the “normal,” and pedestrian definitions within my world view.

    • mornin’, nonquixote. it was amazing to see how the two essays and the many links wove into a more ‘enlightened’ (as you say so well) essay; i thank them all, mysownself.

      how sublime to hear that the caregivers of your family’s challenge are openly expressive as well listeners, would that be the case? oh, and i’d add: gentle interlocutors to the mix, as well.

      sadly, i’ve found too many talk therapists for our family members either worthless or quasi-harmful. at one residential center on the navajo rez, the ‘therapists’ had so many unresolved issues that they were apt to project them onto the teens in their care. but that’s likely often true for private counselors as well, and even more likely at county mental health providers.

      the off-label bigPharma drugs given our daughter were dangerous (neurontin, wtf?) and i’ve forgotten when i’d first read about some of the SSRIs causing suicidal thoughts in the young; scary biscuits to read that the warnings now include 20-somethings.

      i just recalled an MD friend who played banjo in our throw-together bands. she was also a client of mine. one day she hmmmm-ed a bit, and said, ‘wow,
      would you like me to write you a script for anti-depressants?’. guess she reckoned that i was just suffering for a treatable ‘social maladjustment syndrome’. i’d had to go hunting for this image, but i knew i’d parked it somewhere…i know some of us here likely do fit in, but this works for me, and take that, dr. kim! i loved her, but imagine her wailing on her banjo w/ me to michelle shocked’s ‘fogtown’. ;-)

  5. while working on some of my sunday chores i noticed that i’m a bit stuck on valle schorske’s (and by extension, freud’s and others authors) thoughts on empathy, over-identification as ‘theft’ (freud apparently thought that self-condemnation was an internal displacement from ‘lost loves’ and such). i was going to say that the only time i suffered depression for any length of time was during the first gulf war. it was as though i winced internally at every ‘turn the desert to glass’ bombing runs. the help came with warm spring gardening; there must have been something to the life force i felt from the soil, the perennials popping out of the ground, and of course: the sunlight.

    it wasn’t until i’d read an essay by barbara kingsolver in which she stated that her own depression (that had caused her family to move to spain for the duration) over the war grew into a sort of self-indulgence…that i wondered if that may have been so for me as well. i’d been thinking that for many of us, depression must have been a hole we’d gotten into (a man vale schorske had quoted saw it as ‘being underwater w/ no surface above) but that i hadn’t gotten out of it in any reverse way i’d gotten into it. where did that come from, i wondered?

    jayzus. how convenient of me to have breezed right by the fact that i’d been within a gnat’s eyebrow of killing myself at 16 or so. my first and only astral travel saved me from it. ‘she’s leaving home’.

  6. I meant that Ellspeth resembles the young Virginia Woolf physically; I’ve never met anyone with a sunnier disposition, though I did tell you about the tragedies she’s​ had to endure…

    I’ve had some major depressive episodes, so terrible and debilitating that I was unable to do much of anything for weeks. These are always triggered by something: my divorce, the death of my family members one by one within a few years of each other in the 2000s. The last one was in 2013 when my ex of ten years decided she “hated” me and wished me to “die and go to hell.” I’ve been more or less taking major antidepressants for years. Dysthimia (mild depression) is one thing, clinical (or major depression) is a quite different animal, a horrible hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m an artist and composer and believe me, there is no “spiritual” or “creative” value in that experience, when you have to muster all your energy to perform the simplest act, when taking a shower feels like climbing Mt. Everest, when the future seems dark and foreboding like a storm in the woods in a Gothic fairytale….. I’ve talked to other artists and we all agree nobody can create under those conditions…. I’m willing to bet that the famous artists and writers who suffered to this degree only exercised their creativity during periods when the fog lifted, because I can’t imagine painting or playing music when I feel like that. Maybe the insights we had came out later in my work but idrk, I can only speak for myself and my friends….

    For me, I feel the anti-depressants work. I don’t feel any “flatlining” of my emotions or loss of creativity (it has occurred to me that my emotions are so intense a little flatlining might be good for me, they bring my emotions to a place where they might be still more intense than anyone I know, but not so intense as to be unmanageable. ) I’m more creative than ever. And I tried twice to get off them, after reading articles such as these and within a couple of weeks was plunged back into major clinical, all triggered by an event of some kind (it didn’t help that almost every death in my family coincided with the breakup of a serious romantic relationship).

    So now I’m on duloxetine (cymbalta) which I wouldn’t quit even if I could because it’s also the only effective treatment I’ve found for my fibromyalgia, without it I would be subject to horrible pain and fatigue in addition to depression.

    I’m only speaking here for me and my experience. I agree it’s over prescribed (especially with young kids) and our society is over medicalized (oppositional defiant disorder, what a joke, I first encountered it in a custody case I did in the 90s).

    Yes, I’ve tried therapists, with not much results, I’ve found that I’ve gotten much better at talking myself out of depressive episodes using basic logic. For example, when your 89th romantic partner rejects you, it’s natural to think that I’m the common denominator here, there must be something wrong with me (I’m not exaggerating on the numbers here but it’s just an estimate, I’m not so creepy as to keep score) but I finally realized several years ago that a romantic breakup is not a referendum on my self-worth so I’m kinda immune to that now. I realize that I’m doing my best to be a good person and it’s likely the society I live in is sicker than me. This is why I felt so vindicated by Vltchek. My anger can be neutralized by writing a scathing finger-pointing song (you should hear the ones I wrote about Bush and Obama, big hits with the college kids in my town).

    These are my thoughts. I don’t recommend big pharma solutions for everyone, but it works in my rather unusual case.

    • Oh and I’ve ffelt suicidal many times but I didn’t act on it because I strongly believe in reincarnation and all the holy books say it’s really bad karma. (Since I’ve been a toddler I’ve “known” that “I” lived before and will live again, before I even knew what the word meant. For me it’s simple logic, which is why the atheist view of the eternal dirt nap makes no sense to me: what are the odds that there would be billions of years of nothing, followed by a short period of subjective existence, followed by billions of years of nothing…..why and how subjectivity arises is a mystery that science in it’s present state has no answers for.

    • if you’ve found the right combinations for your contentment and stability, i’m glad for you. and how nice that thd’s political views mirror you own. we don’t all have to agree here, of course.

  7. My attitude reference the former descending the latter is : as long as you’re (going) down there; take one of teh $ons-0f-Bushs with you ! Otherwise,

    • i know you’re trying to be funny, bruce, but i think you haven’t a clue what it’s like to be in such a dark spot one would commit suicide (save for those w/ terminal illnesses, and so on).

      but in any even, and since jason’s not here, ill say for him that the problem may have a Final Solution in four years or so when elon musk and his AI pals get their deep brain implants, microchips, and neural nets on the market. “it’s only to prevent artificial intelligence from killing us al, i swear!” riiiight, dude.

      • Not sure if thd’s political views mirror my own, I’ll have to ruminate on his post for quite some time to even get a basic grasp of what those are….But his analysis of electoral politics is one of the best I’ve ever seen. As I’ve said, I’ve given up on the ballot box as a solution long ago, I’m just thinking about it as a necessary evil we are stuck with it and the possibility of electing politicians who seem not to be total douchebags as one tool among many in trying to change this horrendous state of affairs.

        Oh, and this is only a small thing, but it seems that I’ve converted my rabid Putinophobe drinker of the Clintonite kool-aid to a more nuanced view…..The Cynicalseeker revolution is chugging along…..

        • yes, it was likely brilliant. i confess i only read your comment and his while i was still immersed in putting this diary together. i may have to read it. but please understand this disconnect (at least in my not-so-humble opinion:
          ” I’ve given up on the ballot box as a solution long ago” and…”I’m just thinking about it as a necessary evil we are stuck with”. ??? but you seem to be convinced that gabbard (kinda) spoke truth to power Once is not a total douchebag. for me, foreign misadventures trump almost every other issue in the end, and the many times she made the usual claims about unseating tyrants, russia stealing crimea, arming crimeans up the yin yang, (oh, those neo-nazis are soooo adorable!” and all that rubbish, she’s just the cruise missile alleged left’s hero of the moment. Oh! the push-back! the dirty dogs who’ve maligned her!

          (sorry to be so scattered; i’ve typed one sentence every time i can take a cooking or other chores break.)

          but who can say? maybe since you believe in reincarnation, and she’s a hindu…? andd apparently a vegan, as per a thing touting her i’d recently read (too bad tarzie’s ‘meat eaters are assholes’ post may not have linked to that.) ;-) for me, any vote for the uniparty duopoly is a continuation of what got us here with the cheeto bandito, is it fair to ask how you voted this cycle? i see you’ve mentioned some success in convincing a clintonite to a more nuanced view. but good on that, depending on your meaning. ;-)

  8. 000oooo! I gotta a hole lotta clues about that level of abject despair with a run of about one unfaithful female companion per year between ’67 and ’76; until Mrs. Bruce convinced me otherwise from my personal vow of eternal bachelorhood that year. (I’d already moved aboard my Catalina sloop to make good on that promise). That, and RIF-man Nixon never gave me a shot at him.

    • still not seein’ it, bruce. but heck, you might enjoy one thread that ended up pro and con guerilla tactics armed revolution went on for about ten days. 145 comments, whoa nellie, it got kinda hot toward the bottom of the thread.

      but assassination? seriously?

  9. Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity. -billy budd.

    for, to define true madness, What is’t but to be nothing else but mad? -polonius, “madness” meaning melancholia here.

    from comments above, from personal experience, from much observation, the notion that mental illness resides solely in one’s own brainpan is really a quite pernicious, malicious belief. “take your Prozac & get back in the tollbooth!” many USAians are rather Stalinist in their approach to mental health. the 1st thing a judge or shrink asks in a commitment hearing? “does the defendant have a job?” the measure of health is employability. the pathologization of psychic difference & aberration is the same shit as the criminalization of poverty.

    we know what we are, but know not
    what we may be.-Ophelia (echoing a line from Augustine’s Confessions: “I know what I am but not what I may become.” this was the death of the classical, aristocratic view of the self/soul as static, whole, impenetrable, unchangeable, & *rational*.)

    Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
    That Time will come and take my love away.
    This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
    But weep to have that which it fears to lose-sonnet 64 (Ophelia: I cannot choose but weep)
    In these terms, the nonparticipators in public life under a dictatorship are those who have refused their support by shunning those places of “responsibility” where such support, under the name of obedience, is required. And we have only for a moment to imagine what would happen to any of these forms of government if enough people would act “irresponsibly” and refuse support, even without active resistance and rebellion, to see how effective a weapon this could be. It is in fact one of the many variations of nonviolent action and resistance — for instance the power that is potential in civil disobedience — which are being discovered in our century. h arendt

    there’s a lot of unconscious rebellion going on in this country, I think. an enormous amount of grief & loss that is forbidden expression. w/its diabetes/cancer diet, its soul-deadening work, its “prosperity gospel” religiosity, the bleakness of its city & landscapes, incessant manipulation via marketing and all mass media, mass poverty, the foul darkness of its politics, etc., etc., deviant moods & behaviors are a good thing. just think what’ll happen after elon musk gets his neural implants in the fast food workers? “a gamma always does what it should”. think there’ll be any strike actions? not if you are not even allowed to be bored w/your job.

    the epidemic levels of psychic distress, the prevalence of malady, in the population reflects who we are in the world as a nation. Afghanistan gets MOAB, we get McDonald’s. Iraq rejects pathologically the gift of US democracy; losers in US society are pathologically, medically ill. so many people unfit to participate in all the goodness capitalist society has on offer (that only really exists in its self-promoting adverts.)

    it’s a chilly rainy day in Charlotte as I sit looking out the window onto a fabulous back yard w/huge trees, bamboo, a lovely garden, a chicken coop, a rooster crowing in the distance, and no highways around as i bibble babble away while listening to random things on utube. the birds seem quite happy, as do the flowers & plants & even the cat. homemade kimchi from cabbage from the garden. the spring rebirth, mother nature starting over again. as she does every day, every season, w/every generation. the suppression of the vitality of children, nature starting over w/ a new batch of humans, is absolutely necessary for the preservation of the existing order. the suppression of all human vitality, w/cheap beer, cigs, the drudgery & emptiness of work, the malnutritious food & empty entertainment, the soul-robbing drugs, the constant battering of the psyche w/fear & “terror”, the untraversable inanity of political discourse, all calculated to benumb, to ensure no one is ever aroused to do anything. but above all, the children must not get any ideas. filling in the proper bubbles on the test is the high road to the good life. oh, it’s not, you say? well, here’s some fancy Ritalin.


    • for now, just for now: thank you, bro. for the thoughts, the quotes, and the silber (i’d never read that one). charlotte?

    • your comment brought more melancholy to me jason, perhaps because i heard that tone in your voice, as well. and ophelia’s lines:
      “Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate, That Time will come and take my love away.
      This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
      But weep to have that which it fears to lose”

      …are exactly what karnan had surmised above, as in melancholy as having the scent of mourning in advance, the ‘knowingness’ that loss is inevitable, and that things won’t work out as we’d hoped.

      silber’s essay was fine, as were arendt’s excerpts he’d used (and holy crow, that was from 2007), but i’d return to the idea of ‘obedience’ anyway. the epic authoritarianism of our culture that alice miller had exposed so well…are a large part of the psychopathology of our ruling elite. ‘failure to obey’ a police order can easily get one shot, especially if one is identifiably from the disposable lower classes. ‘failure too obey the u.s.hegemon’ results in economic sanctions, coups, both soft and hard, full-tilt media blitzes against ‘tyrants’ (unless they’re ‘our partners in peace’ like the sauds, the uae, or israel, of course).

      the truly mental ill of the lower classes end up in prison, languishing in anguish without trial for years, sometimes even murdered by guards or other inmates…

      but yes to all those ways the ruler use to keep us numb enough to toil, but too numb to actually struggle against them. reminds me of the “arise like slumber fro your sleep. we are many, they are few”…and how few amerikans even get past the lame belief that it’s all an R v. D game of chess. who said in the OP that melancholia causes people to ‘see’ better, as in: the lies, the obfuscations, the true nature of those who oppress us? maybe it was Valle Schorske. and the title levine’s essay at Z i’d quotes was: ‘Psychiatry Keeps Anti-Authoritarians Off Democracy Battlefields’.

      • Arkansas death row
        Lendell Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 pm CT, April 20th, after turning down his last meal to take communion. He had spent over 20 years on the Arkansas death row. Among the other convicts scheduled for execution are a paranoid schizophrenic named Bruce Ward (also having spent twenty years on the Row) and Jason McGee, a brain damaged sufferer of bi-polar disorder who was sniffing gasoline at age three and an alcoholic at age six. A man whose childhood is so horrific that none of us can begin to imagine it. Another, also bi polar, Jack Jones, has severe hallucinations and has committed himself twice before his crimes took place. He was also the victim of repeated and violent sexual abuse as a young boy. Another, Kenneth Williams, has an IQ of 70. That means he can barely tie his shoes. Don Davis, another, was described by a doctor thus: “Don also endured a serious head injury, which, along with his ADHD and low IQ, likely lead to ‘double deficits’ in cognitive functioning.” Don’s IQ score was 69. Marcel Williams is another with a long history of sexual abuse (his mother pimped him out at the age of 12). He also suffers severe cognitive impairment. And then there is Stacy Johnson who is probably innocent. We know for certain he did not receive adequate representation as his trial.
        Patrick Cockburn at today’s CP also has an article up about treating the “mentally ill” as criminals.

        there’s a longer quote from Billy Budd about people who, Ahab-like, maintain a certain “rationality” but whose malignancy of purpose could only be described as “insane.” some people have difficulty accepting that “success” in the world requires ever more intense levels of “malign rationality”, that human beings could actually do to each other the most unspeakable things and reward each other for it. that fact itself can drive one batty. or inhibit one’s “functionality” in life. it’s tempting to surmise that the start of ww2 had some effect on Virginia W’s sanity, esp. w/Leonard being Jewish.

        if I remember my “notes from the underground,” the underground man narrator embraces his own self-degradation and self-humiliation b/c, he feels, it’s the last arena of genuine freedom left to him, liberating self-loathing. having lived w/someone who completely self-destructed (not) dealing w/diabetes, I think I can see it. my brother destroyed himself precisely in order NOT to go back to being a computer programmer cubicle drone. self-neglect as defiance. his addictions prohibited him from seeing other options to protracted suicide for dealing w/the colossal emptiness of much of work life.

        everyone is in the position, to a degree, of these nuclear missile techs:
        I mean, do you want these guys to be all the “7 habits of highly effective mushroom cloud bursters” or to be snoring drunk when the call comes in to nuke Moscow? to have cheated for so long they can’t remember how to do it, push that button or whatev? (but cheating is wrong!) to work, in the accepted sense of that term, taxable labor, is to participate in a system whose purpose is global destruction. (not all participation is equal, of course. not by any stretch.) not sure if the children, who are our diabetic future (TM), being too obese to pull the trigger is per se a bad thing. sorry. no time for war right now. gotta fire up the meth lab. then destroy the little left of my liver. after this smoke break.

        • well, i clicked an alt-code key, lost my whole damned comment. i’ll try again later. my eyes prolly need a break anyway.

        • the arkansas coming execution list made me cry. do we suppose they’re all people of color? or is that bigoted of me?

          ‘malign rationality’, the ‘banality of evil’, and the roberts’ quote akin to: ‘the blood on my hands was worth it’. i had to start scanning it was so long, but so relative to our discussions:

          “The largest amount of military aid (weapons sales and training mostly) goes to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But also to South Korea, to Australia, Turkey and Taiwan. And of course Israel. What do these countries have in common? Obedience to the U.S. is first. Second is their willingness to serve as sub contractors in the global war on the poor…er….terror. Right, the war on terror. Now in year 16. These countries are all very high on the list of human rights violators. Never mind. They are obedient.

          Now, who is the United States targeting next for “humanitarian intervention”? The answer is Syria, North Korea and perhaps even Venezuela. And if the wet dreams of the Pentagon and the neo con policy wonks at the various NGOs in Washington come true, Iran. What do these countries have in common? They are disobedient. Have any of them attacked the U.S.? No. Of course not.”

          and…echoing vltchek to a startling degree:

          “I find the denuded landscape of American suburbia the most depressing on the planet. These are hostile areas of atomized and isolated individuals, with families that seem to hate each other and children already on the way to one or another personality disorder. It is a selfish and hyper competitive place with a populace frighteningly unhealthy and addicted to anti depressants. And yet this competition is for almost nothing. The real affluence is locked up and kept at a safe distance from the working class. And it is a racist culture. A profoundly racist culture.”

          does atomized mean ‘dispersed’? i see it used in so many different contexts. i also saw the term ‘crypto imperialists’.

          your bro, others: “embraces his own self-degradation and self-humiliation b/c, he feels, it’s the last arena of genuine freedom left to him, liberating self-loathing.” i admit that it’s a gruesome concept to me, and hard to accept.

          as to the missile keepers, OMG.

  10. speaking of male (even when it’s women) authoritarian imperialism, this news just came in via the popular resistance newsletter, but they’d offered no links. but here it is, and speculation is, and will run wild about being a preamble to striking north korea:

    “President Donald Trump has reportedly summoned the entire U.S. Senate to the White House on Wednesday for a rare briefing on the situation in North Korea. The briefing will center on the Trump administration’s planned response to North Korea’s nuclear program and Kim Jung Un’s threats to launch attacks on the U.S. and its Asian allies.

    According to Reuters, the Trump administration sent a notice to Capitol Hill, summoning all 100 U.S. Senators to the White House for a meeting on Wednesday where they will be briefed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the situation in the Korean Peninsula. Other top administration officials who will brief the senators at the meeting include Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, according to Reuters.
    The briefing, which was originally scheduled to take place in the Senate, is intended to bring the senators up to date on the administration’s planned response to North Korea’s nuclear program, which the U.S. views as a threat to its national security.” the rest is here.

    zeese and flowers offer a handy-dandy way to email our senators: no, you don’t!

    • nyt, fox confirm.

      well, if it’s a shooting war, at least I won’t have to listen to any more pretentious middle class nonsense from violent philistine idiots.

      • holy crow, j. stepford wives meet j. nicholson as batman. the black hole performs its deep magic. fuck, do we deserve it. but gosh, it’s only…monday? “repent! the time is nigh!” are those signs on sale at they’re done brung by drone to our doors? only $49.99, 2 for $104.99!

        sorry to say i cant rebuild my comment to your last one; my eyes have turned into pumpkins. so many relevant quotes inside relating to ‘obedience’. i do remember that among others VZ may be on the regime change block. yeppers; today’s news was…bleak, if confusing.

        sleep well if ya can; may your dreams be instructive, at the very least. lately, that’s all i can hope for. nite to you in charlotte’s web w/ a good cat and bamboo.

        • oh my thoughts
          my achy precious thoughts
          wordpress and/or user error ate a couple of my comments recently.

          “repent! the time is nigh!” yes, one sign for the front yard, one for the neighbor’s yard.

          “Mahler was the prophet of our [20th] century. and like every prophet, what does he say? ‘Repent, for the end is nigh.'” L. Bernstein.

          Repentance has 3 steps: stopping, turning around, going a different direction. the enforced busy-ness of life, the oppressive, stressful haste about everything, the supersaturating media bombardment, the medical culture, etc., etc., all to ensure that no one ever has the chance to do the simplest thing possible: to stop.

          I tried to explain to this christiany doctor friend of mine, kind of a “tiger mom” type, 1st gen immigrant so of course he believes all the BS about “hard work,” anywho, tried to explain to him the purpose of education in our society is to guarantee that the children don’t change anything (except personal & family fortunes). and so, there can never be any “repentance.” and, I went on, given the state of the world (hard to see from his castle on the beach in San Diego, I’m sure), the absolute last thing children should do is listen to the adults. oh, the skeptical groans.

          anyway, signing off w/Falstaff, from the robbery at Gad’s hill:
          Strike; down with them; cut the villains’ throats:
          ah! whoreson caterpillars! bacon-fed knaves! they
          hate us youth: down with them: fleece them…
          Hang ye, gorbellied knaves, are ye undone? No, ye
          fat chuffs: I would your store were here! On,
          bacons, on! What, ye knaves! young men must live.
          You are Grand-jurors, are ye? we’ll jure ye, ‘faith

          • i discovered recently that i can find comments that didn’t take by looking in the wordpress behind-the-scenes places. but the two i’d hunted down recently didn’t give any indication why they’d been vanished. but if you yell: ‘disappeared’ loud enuff for me to hear it, i’ll look. mine was user error, though why comments boxes can be so cranky about alt codes is beyond me. just tryin’ to make some musical notes, i swear! if i think i’m gonna write a long comment, i just do it on a word document, then paste it in. not that i always know when i might write a long one.

            ack; i’d thought the sign in your video said ‘the time is nigh’, but it may just have been my crap eyes. never any way to actually just…’stop’. darn, i love that, j.

            and thanks for the falstaff; small wonder that there are at least a couple ‘shakesperean insults’ websites, eh?

        • Lord Chief-Justice Do you set down your name in the scroll of youth,
          that are written down old with all the characters of
          age? Have you not a moist eye? a dry hand? a
          yellow cheek? a white beard? a decreasing leg? an
          increasing belly? is not your voice broken? your
          wind short? your chin double? your wit single? and
          every part about you blasted with antiquity? and
          will you yet call yourself young? Fie, fie, fie, Sir John!
          My lord, I was born about three of the clock in the
          afternoon, with a white head and something a round
          belly. For my voice, I have lost it with halloing
          and singing of anthems. To approve my youth
          further, I will not: the truth is, I am only old in
          judgment and understanding…
          henry iv pt 2

  11. I really don’t have a lot to offer on this topic because I tend to think that psychologization of labeled “personal problems” is one of the means of social control in the US that avoids seeing the sociological, economic, and political realities that form the context. And because the US self-promotes and continuous “don’t worry, be happy” and “compete, compete, compete” focus on game faces and game attitudes, false presentations of self (thank you, Erving Goffman), and pressures toward cultural conformity.

    My practical sense having been through periods (but not chronic) depression and one incident in which everyone but me thought I was suicidal (a valium OD during a nasty child custody battle and unemployment in the 1970s) is something I think of as an individual reaction that has zero clues for coping for anyone else in the universe. It was situational, not chronic.

    I am struck at how the drive toward “pure capitalism” that began with the Reagan administration in 1981 has created the situation in which lots of “dis-eases” have rapidly grown. I remember from the late 1970s data that showed for every 1% increase in unemployment, there was x% increase in divorce, domestic violence, crime, depression, suicide, murder, and so on. Not that economic pressure is the only causes there but a nation that intentionally ignores economic pressures and then guilt-trips individuals about their attitude slowly constructs the sorts of double-binds that the guys who put together the torture at Guantanamo call “learned helplessness”. My own experience of depression had to do with a sense of being trapped sociologically, with very few options of changing my situation and the spare time to focus on that situation of being trapped. Constructing the a way out of that situation for me took patience and a social network of practical support, not just cheerleading.

    Kierkegaard’s “The Sickness unto Death” was a helpful read for me during the 1970s, and so was Juan de Yepes y Alvarez (San Juan de la Cruz) “The Dark Night of the Soul”. They were helpful for telling me that I was not having some sort of moral failing of “good mental health” but that I was dealing with a human state of being, that was among other human states of being, and thus a gift, not a problem. You can see from this that I do not, as much as my imagination tries, have a clear idea of the depth of feeling that those with chronic depression experience.

    What I have seen is the extent that traditional American (and especially Southern) ways of self-talk and talking about family create some really bad personal politics. What got me on to this thread of thought in the 1960s was the work of R. D. Laing on the political construction and the self-construction of narratives. “The Politics of Experience”, “The Politics of the Family”, and “Knots” were key insights, for me, into how “gaslighting” and functions politically to encourage self-destructive self-naratives that lead to long-term entanglement. One sees the same dynamics in the politics of workplaces, where the required cooperation within the firm coexists with intense capitalistic competition between workers. The political personal dealing with identities is a huge part of dividing and ruling the majority class that might otherwise unite.

    Want a sure ticket to depression; pull a dysfunctional boss in a time or recession. Probably clearer there is the notion that depression is at least a matter of throttled rage. What is the factor that a dysfunctional boss has; overuse of the political personal as a means of control. My example is a boss who had a Monday morning staff meeting every week; at that staff meeting, this boss went around the table and called out each and every worker on their major failing of the previous week. The boss encouraged backbiting and tale-telling. The professional distance of the staff kept the organization running, but everyone experienced a psychic cost in doing it. All the “you can control how you react to the situation” self-talk eventually comes up short some days.

    We’ve learned that persistent emotional states transform body chemistry, sometime persistently. Or that body chemistry gone awry interrupts what was earlier a strong tolerance of and ability to balance out strong emotional states.

    Where I come out in this is that each person deserves respect and dignity for working their own way through these issues. That not all is just a matter of what is internal in the mind; social realities matter. And that you cannot fix anyone but yourself. But you can help when asked. Lots of respect for all of you relying on what help some pharma can provide; if it works for you, that is progress.

    Thanks for the well-written article raising this topic, wd.

    • i like your first paragraph well, especially as i’d tried to make that (almost?) exact theme most ascendant in the post, including, of course, levine’s premises, and to an extent, karna’s closing. On edit:, and any number of the commentariat who get it in spades. ;-) interesting memory of the regan-era related numbers on increasing oppression of the citizenry, and the numbers levine cited seem to indicate that it’s now grown far worse for many of the same reasons.

      and i’m so glad that you learned that your temporary depression was indeed similar to a ‘sacred crisis of self’, very human, very much a door to be opened and walked through. how wonderful that you had a social support system, one of the key limitations in this society now; and how tragic that good talk therapists are diamonds among stones (in my experience, i’ll add. how many? too many). i’d read laing’s ‘knots’ long ago, and by now have forgotten it, but as to your musings about ‘official family narratives’, scott peck’s ‘people of the lie’ was revelatory to me. as the lies, cover-ups, and false histories go on generationally, it takes brave souls to challenge them, and teach their children new, truthful versions. ah; the other author who taught me that by way of (what, magical realism?) was pat conroy. unless i’m misreading you, of course.

      but the boss you mentioned seems to be familiar, and yes, many times depression can be rage turned inward. it’s all down to the duration, isn’t it? and resolution or acceptance of the situation, without self-blame. “you can control how you react…” isn’t that cognitive therapy?

      the mind/body connection is what drew me to go to the people’s republic of boulder to learn bodywork. there i also learned ‘soul work’ from a few good teachers outside of the school. i suppose the ‘genetic memory’ ideas and epigenetics might prove to have some merits, but only believing that the horrors are past on…i wouldn’t find very epiphanic, myownself.

      i wrote about a ‘long dark night of the soul’ mr. wd and i had experienced long ago. a catholic commenter gave me links to a number of essays written by various monks; as joss would have it, i chose one that actually helped me to see that i/we weren’t to blame for the causes of our…almost zombie-like reactions, and the ways we might shift our perceptions of it. but we did have one another, which helped immeasurably. we were so bereaved that we weren’t able to laugh, listen to music, and even boxed our guitars and put them in the cellar. brought mine up a year or so ago, put on new strings, but by now, i’m even too damned blind to see the strings and frets; so it goes i guess. ;-)

      along the way i learned of EFT (emotional freedom technique), a meridian tapping and eye movement protocol that helped/helps both of us as well as my clients. we went for a session of the fancy-ass EMDR, but fuck its having cost $200 for each of us in a combined session. and that was in the early 80s, iirc. ptui on that sort of greed.

      thanks for all of this, amigo. the tweet i’d tried to embed earlier dinnae take; i’ll try it again now. works for me, anyway, ad some commentary on ‘christmas culture narratives’. guess not.

  12. I, too, have had similar reluctance in addressing this subject as those expressed by TD above, mostly from a feeling of inadequacy, as if I were from a different planet but knowing that really I am not. The closest I can come,( and this may seem to be passing the buck, but it’s the best I can do) – is to quote from a passage in Buber’s “I and Thou” thusly:

    “. . .thought, ready with its service and its art, paints with its well-known speed one – no, two rows of pictures on the right wall and on the left. On the one there is (or rather there takes place, for the world-pictures of thought are reliable cinematography) the universe. The tiny earth plunges from the whirling stars, tiny man from the teeming earth, and now history bears him further through the ages, to rebuild persistently the ant-hills of the cultures which history crushes underfoot. Beneath the row of pictures is written: ‘One and all.’ On the other wall there takes place the soul. A spinner is spinning the orbits of all stars and the life of all creation and the history of the universe; everything is woven on one thread, and is no longer called stars and creation and universe, but sensations and imaginings, or even experiences, and conditions of the soul. And beneath the row of pictures is written: ‘One and all.”. . .

    This is such a difficult paragraph for me, as difficult as is the first telling of Plato’s cave analogy, so I’ll leave it here for the moment as an entire comment to reflect on a bit and see in what way each wall represents a different perspective, a different aspect, poetically speaking, of human contemplation. And first up, the difference I note from Plato’s imagery is that there are two rows of pictures on the walls of this cave, not one – Buber has just said, “…It is, in truth, the high art of thought to paint a reliable picture of the world that is even worthy of belief…” so, unlike in Plato’s analogy, here it is the individual man himself whose thought itself paints these pictures, and there are two sets.

    • thank you for both comments, juliania; i’ve read them both at least twice. i’m having trouble changing gears from north korea, as well as the wiki jason just left from b’s new thread concerning ” unit 731.. a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army, etc.

      but your buber comment caused me to go again to the secular buddhist link to see if a few concepts there were…similar in a way. or tangential. so…i’m not entirely sure which quotes would mirror either the genesis of melancholia, or depression commodified into a ‘mental health issue’ with the added feature of the usual treatment plan causing suicide ideation or even suicide in the younger folks among us. but what you’ve clipped does remind me of the potential openings of awareness levine named ‘the sacred crisis of self’, don’t you think? and exploring the possibilities that the culture/society we live among is a large part of an anti-authoritarian’s pain, isolation.

      your noting that buber kinda said there should be no ‘oughts’ to others as the epiphanies gained mirrored what thd had said in a way: ‘don’t solve other peoples’ lives for them unless invited’ or close. oddly, i’d almost noted that i’d wanted to stick a pin in that one, as this and another thread seemed to be forums on depression, serially failed relationships, blame or none, etc. and given that, i was almost thinking some gentle questions to the sufferers might have have been helpful. likely not, so i held my tongue. ;-) but in my work life, i discovered that the best way to draw out clients as to the issues their bodies seemed to be telling me…was to offer them confidences about my own stories.

      anyway, if i have some sort of relevant comment to make, i’ll come back. the café is like this; some days it’s virtually empty, days like today, i can barely keep up, what with RL chores and other communication obligations and needs. but well done, even i’m being an overly-grounded thick-wit.

      • Thanks very much, wendye – you twigged on the relevant message, which is that walking a mile in another man’s moccasins is probably the most difficult feat – we do naturally tend to think our own problems and successes are the very most important ones but I think it’s a sign of ‘maturity’ when we realize we our own selves have got where we are by such an unique path – how to ever tell another to reach identical conclusions?

        ThD’s dark night of the soul mentionings though, do have a common thread, so that’s what I latched onto. And my abundantly glorious Easter garden has now been covered and is being covered by four inches of snow ongoing, so you never know. I always think that the human and other treasure having been wasted by our profligate government, how ever will they cope with the inevitable natural disasters that are most surely our reward, even in ordinary times (and these are not ordinary.)

        People will shine forth, and people will bare their fangs. As always.

        • welcome, ww (luv ya witless’, woman). glad to hear i got your and buber’s overall message.

          woot! on the snow. it’s snowing lightly here now, and it was brrrr cold last night. the brave perennials who are up are layin’ low and bent. but otoh hand, a (for here on our hill) gorgeous little western bluebird came and posed atop of our camperdown elm. with the snows the day before yesterday on her, her sleepy hollow spread and turned-down branches made her look like she was all dressed up to attend a wedding.

  13. Continuing on with Buber’s thought-paintings:

    “. . .Thenceforth, if ever the man shudders at the alienation, and the world strikes terror in his heart, he looks up (to the right or left, just as it may chance) and sees a picture. There he sees that the ‘I’ is embedded in the world, and that there is really no ‘I’ at all — so the world can do nothing to the ‘I’, and he is put at ease; or he sees that the world is embedded in the ‘I’, and that there really is no world at all — so the world can do nothing to the ‘I’, and he is put at ease. Another time, if the man shudders at the alienation, and the ‘I’ strikes terror in his heart, he looks up and sees a picture; which picture he sees does not matter, the empty ‘I’ is stuffed full with the world or the stream of the world flows over it, and he is put at ease.

    “But a moment comes, and it is near, when the shuddering man looks up and sees both pictures in a flash together. And a deeper shudder seizes him. . .”

    This isn’t the end of Buber’s analysis/journey of the ‘I’ – but I don’t want to complicate the message, rather go with the flow of thought in this thread. There are two shorter passages, moving ahead from the ‘dark night of the soul’ imagery, which I think belong – here’s the first:

    “. . .The man who emerges from the act of pure relation that so involves his being has now in his being something more that has grown in him, of which he did not know before and whose origin he is not rightly able to indicate. . .the reality is that we receive what we did not hitherto have, and receive it in such a way that we know it has been given to us. . .”

    And here is the second part:

    “. . .We cannot approach others with what we have received, and say ‘You must know this, you must do this.’ We can only go, and confirm its truth. And this, too, is no ‘ought,’ but we can, we must. . . the eternal source of strength streams, the eternal contact persists, the eternal voice sounds forth, and nothing more. . .”

    I hope I am not damaging the reflections upon the theme that are expressed within this thread. Buber wrote in dark times this early poem of his, and I just felt that elements of it echoed what has been said here. In my own personal faith, which wavers and is as inconstant as anyone’s, the understanding stretches itself towards the idea of an allknowingness that is already aware of beginnings and endings I cannot see. I don’t tread Buber’s path, though; only my own.

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