clap clap blog: we have moved
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
This is a really good article and you should read it. It's from the NYT magazine and is about the romanticization of depression and our odd impulse to preserve it. (Although the author does not acknowledge some obvious sources, I assume this is rectified in the book.) It tangentially addresses some of the issues I'm concerned with here at clap clap blog, which I may expand on later, but you can probably figure it out. Please note the bit about Sisyphus' triumph being his continued hopefulness. Also please note the history of melancholy.
There is one thing I'd like to add, though. To me, what typifies depression is that it's not only sadness but sadness mixed with disgust--disgust with your surroundings, disgust with your fellow humans, but, more than anything else, disgust with yourself. This is why people who go through major trauma do not, as the author says, tend to be depressed at the time. In this situation, there is a clear outside agent causing your misery, and so you feel it is out of your control to a certain degree. With depression, it's your inability to control your body and your mind, these things you should ostensibly have agency over, that causes that disgust and that further depression, that deepened sadness. It's that moment of being unable to pull yourself out of that trough that marks the tipping point between grief and depression. It is a self-involvement that hates how self-involved it is, although the degree to which the subject expresses or reveals this to the outside world is both culturally determined and often a way of dealing with the depression that's more or less successful.
To me, depression absolutely precludes creation. It is true that, as the author notes, mania can be a great motor of creation, but depression leaves you with the wrong kind of self-centeredness, one that seeks to rid itself of the intense inward focus but lacks the ability to do so. This is not an aid to creation but a hinderance. A rudimentary understanding of the disease should leave us profoundly suspicious of anyone claiming to make true depressive art.
But I do think these conceptions still dominate our cultural discussions, and I think that criticism can determine politics, so, you know. Whoops, I just did like four large jumps there, sorry.
ADDENDUM: I meant to put something in there about disgust as a primary cultural value. So, uh, pretend like I did. Whatever. God I'm depressed. (Just kidding.)
Existentialism and postmodernism: cursed by the young to appear stupid.