“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Excess of Black Bile

I apologize for not having posted anything here for a week.  I was told when I started that if I let more than a few days go by without posting, I would lose my readers.  I am once again writing to “those wonderful people out there in the dark”, having no idea who, if anyone, is actually there.

For the last three or four days, I have had to struggle with myself to get out of bed.  I have felt physically exhausted in part because of the heat we have had.  (Our big, cold neighbor, the North Pacific, being temporarily bested by the solar heating of the unusually dry, i.e. drought-ridden, landmass.)  I have also been exhausted because I have not had enough to eat for the last four or five days.  And a long-time companion of mine, depression, has kept me down, too.

I do not understand the prejudice against depression, which I have always thought of as my melancholy humor.  A sanguine humor, that is to say endless optimism and cheerfulness, is actually extolled as virtuous but is no more realistic -- and no healthier -- than melancholy.  Even the choleric soul, if she or he be a politician, a top executive, or a member of the armed forces, is praised and finds success in part because of his inappropriate response to reality.

Depression, however, seems to threaten people.  Americans habitually ask “How are you?” when first greeting one another.  Of course, they do not really want to know.  Katherine Hepburn used to respond to the question by saying “Fine -- if you don’t want the details.”  I am one of those quirky eccentrics who always answers truthfully, albeit as briefly ass possible.  In the months after my mother died, I would answer by saying that I was depressed and sometimes found it hard to get out of bed.

I was surprised by the frequency with which people responded to my answer by asking whether I had seen my doctor about it.  “They can prescribe something to help you with that,” they said.  Offended by the disrespect (for my mother and for me) implied by the suggestion, I would say, “My mother died.  There would be something wrong if it didn’t get me down.  I’d be worried if I weren’t depressed.”

What is the point of avoiding sadness, anger or frustration?  Is one fully alive if one avoids the pain of living and admits only the kind of giddy euphoria called “happiness”?

My final reason for having failed to post for so many days is that I no longer have an Internet connection at home.  I had one while a man in my building was generously leaving his wireless network unsecured so that anyone of us could use it.  He has now moved on.  So these postings have to be saved to a memory stick which I will plug into a computer at the library in order to upload to this blog.  I never know for sure how long it will take to get a computer at the library, so I beg your indulgence: bear with me through my occasional silences, please.

And if you can, please comment or follow or somehow let me know that you are there.  Hearing from you will do much to get me out of bed on the difficult days.