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Thoughts on R U OK? Day

I remember when I got help. It was this time in 2009. I returned home from the United States without any money to my name, no job, no prospects and seemingly, no future. The script I’d written myself had run out of pages. I simply had no compulsion to write anything more.

The usual cliché is that depression is that of the “black dog;” – to me, a black dog conjures an image of "man’s best friend" colored a dark shade. The black dog, at least to me, has no snarl and has no bite – it is not a Cerberus that stalks your waking hours. To me, depression lies at the core of one’s very soul. It felt as if there was a wounded being inside of me, screaming and writhing in agony, scratching at my eyes to escape. But it knew as well as me that once it had claimed its freedom, the harsh light of day would cause it to expire.

Thus lies in the paradox of this illness – it’s not a disease of the brain; it’s a syndrome of the mind. Once someone feels so inured with depression, the world turns gray. Once embedded within every thought and every inference, depression is your way of life. You remain convinced that this is the only way; you cannot remember how it was before or even if there was a before. Even your memories are tinctured with sadness and loss. Bright moments are dulled; duller moments are simply charred away and taste like ash in your mouth.

You can lie for hours on the couch and let images and sounds flash by. But you take nothing in. Agony rings hollow. You can surround yourself with loved ones and feel that their concern is merely cloying and insincere. Their touches feel like sharp, icy scratches across your skin. A negation swirls around inside and people feel at unease – it’s almost as if they can sense your void of life energy and shy from it lest it snatches their own from under them.

So today is “R U OK?” day, where we are encouraged to ask our friends and loved ones if they are feeling well of mind. Perhaps some of them will confuse process with content and provide a lengthy, immaterial list of gripes that has nothing to do with their own state of mind. To me, when I was lying prone and waiting for an ending, I didn’t want someone to ask me if I was okay. What I felt I needed is for someone to say I was okay – as a worthwhile person. The question, R U OK? should be met with the most precious answer that springs direct from the well of the mind and body – “yes, I am.” It should be felt with the wholeness of your being and expressed with the spark of life renewed. The hard task is this – once you feel you are not, one must labor, struggle and build a feeling that yes – you are. In time, you’ll realize we all are and we all can be.

Together, we can write pages anew in the books of our lives.


Incredible Lateness of Being

Living in an uncertain world, we can also face the prospect of time being not only our keeper but our cruel and merciless dictator. A missed appointment, careless mistake and unsent missive can ruin the journey of a life, if we let it. We can move on and take it in a mechanical stride or feel it burn hot inside us and let the emotion well up, cooling as unspent and leaden. Acknowledging the ebb and flow of uncertain time can bring great joy but also a sense of longing and despair.

But then we can create worlds of words that bear no connection to reality. We idealize and are frequently disappointed when the tree bears fruit and despite the sweetness, we taste only bitterness. What seems good at one time can sometimes become ill fitting as time marches on. Sometimes the mismatch of the old map with the new territory aches like being boxed in against our will.

But the constraints are everywhere and freeing ourselves from them can be a Herculean struggle. If we believe that the cause is just, the love is pure or the loss is greater from inaction than from standing up to claim what is ours, then we can overcome it. If we never get what we want, at least we can proudly say that we tried. Even if the timing is off.


Something Better To Do

On Facebook, there are many fan pages dedicated to a variety of subjects and, well, bullshit. Some of them range from pages celebrating rock stars, actors and authors - others are merely novelties and bullshit like "I called Princess Peach a slut when playing Mario Kart" or "Water tastes good when there's nothing else to drink." Some fan pages have even less of a reason to exist than the aforementioned - and these are the pages such as "Women should be in the kitchen" and the countless variations on that theme.

Leaving the humor aspect aside, I find them offensive. Not because I believe them to be degrading to women (which they obviously are on one level) because I find them degrading to men.

In the 2nd decade of the 21st century, the tools for making oneself independent are abundant, especially in the western world. In my profession, I can report from wherever, whenever and however I choose. To posit that me as a man should be mothered from cradle to grave is ludicrous and highly disturbing. Having a servile, submissive wife endlessly cooking food and cleaning up after us would not do us, as men, any favors. We would be reduced to boys, dependent on a woman for all our needs. While spite-filled frustrated men may believe having such a doting lackey that he can stick his penis into would be a dream come true, I would think it was an absolute nightmare.

By eliminating the requirement to fulfill our own needs, it would breed inaction and laziness. Ambition would falter and our masculine power and agency would be eroded. By subordinating our basic needs to a woman, we put ourselves in a position of dependence. While on a superficial level it would seem that the man dominates the woman in this situation, on a deeper, psychological and emotional level, the man gives up his masculinity in the process. If a man wants to truly exercise his masculine power he would see the complimentary nature of the sexes in a healthy way instead of a maladaptive child-parent dynamic. Its like men saying to women "I am helpless, please take care of me as if I were a baby."

I'll make my own fucking sandwich, thank you very much.


Uncertainty and its Virtue

"[B]elief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence." - Robert Anton Wilson

"If you go into any party or place where people conversationally interact with one another, you will find that half the energy is spent in trying to convince the other that you have the right idea." - Ernst von Glasersfeld

In the social sciences, something that I am well acquainted in as I hold my BA in Political Science and study toward an MA in Media and Communication, it becomes apparent that the ideas that construct the landscape of debate are hypotheses with no extensional, definitive answer. Politics is no more a science than literature, which is no more a science than religion - it is purely the domain of human agency. No scientific test can answer "Will this legislation improve society?" since it is by and large an unanswerable question. Even as our entire existence relies upon chance, uncertainty and probability we as humans never fail in our capacity to believe in perfect exactitude within our own thinking.

Rigid, inflexible thinking has produced much of the horrors of the human age. Dogmatic, two-valued (i.e., right vs. wrong, good vs. bad) thinking has invariably produced the Crusades, the Holocaust and other unimaginable terrors. Atheists invariably turn their ire toward religion as causing these ills and many more. Religionists believe that Atheists will lead us toward a lawless, immoral society due to their non-belief or disputation of a God.

"Is there a God" is, at this present time, an unanswerable question, much like the question of "What does the dark side of the moon look like" until the invention of lunar spaceflight. There is no test, no measuring device, no real way of knowing definitively either way. In my estimation, there is a high probability of the non-existence of a God, but this is my own rationally-derived guess based on my own ideas, my own studies and etc. I can no more prove that God exists than saying that Heavy Metal is the greatest music ever created.

I can agree with the assertion that religion and the Bible is not the word of (a) God; it did not appear spontaneously - it was written by humans for consumption by other humans. The Catholic Church is administered by humans and was created for the benefit (and detriment) of humans.

Despite the empirical evidence that religion is the sole domain of humans without aid from divine intervention, it does not absolutely disprove an existence of a God, it merely confirms that humans conceive a creator in these certain images (Jesus, Buddha, Allah etc.) which has been widely accepted (or foisted upon them) by others. The Christian model of God differs from the Jewish model and the Islamic model and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary or to the affirmative, all models are equally valid.

Leaving the debate as to whether religion "poisons all things" or subjugates certain peoples, it does force people into Aristotelian, two-valued thinking if they so choose to believe all premises offered by their chosen religion. Humans in their own agency have the choice to follow a religion - irrespective of the consequences of its renunciation or not - just as much as they have a choice in which football team to favor.

Telling someone they are wrong in matters they themselves cannot prove does not confirm their rightness. Karl Popper, the philosopher accused Theism of being "worse than an open admission of failure, for it created the impression that an ultimate explanation had been reached." Now (some strands of) Atheism offer the same ultimate explanation, mostly through the works of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.

The current scientific paradigm that prevails today is that this evolutionary process is the explanation for humanity's current form. However, a scientist would also concede the point that Darwin's theory could one day be invalidated by a superior conjecture and hypothesis as our technology grows. So even Darwin's theory has a very high probability of being true-to-fact and true-to-observation, but cannot be deemed 100% correct.

Of course, the virtue of being content in verisimilitude is that it relieves a lot of mental pressure on being totally "right" all the time. One can sit back and explore his own universe and marvel at its complexity. Then again, you could tell me I'm full of shit - and that's fair enough too!


Humanity to Man

In one respect man is the nearest thing to me, so far as I must do good to men and endure them. But so far as some men make themselves obstacles to my proper acts, man becomes to me one of the things which are indifferent, no less than the sun or wind or a wild beast. Now it is true that these may impede my action, but they are no impediments to my affects and disposition, which have the power of acting conditionally and changing: for the mind converts and changes every hindrance to its activity into an aid; and so that which is a hindrance is made a furtherance to an act; and that which is an obstacle on the road helps us on this road.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 5.20

Over the past few days, I've seen the minds of others turn to anguish and despair due to the actions of significant others. In their estimation, the action of the other - dumping them, hurting them, acting out against them - signifies an attack on their character, that they are no longer worthy of others' acceptance or love. On the contrary, their lovability and capacity to accept such love has not diminished in any way or form; they more or less are as they were prior to these events transpiring.

So why the inevitable turn to self-loathing and victimization when these relationships fail, even if it is of no to little fault of their own? Where is the rule that dictates this rigorous mental self-flagellation must occur? It may stem from a false-to-fact belief that their significant other is the only arbiter of romantic love and care for them and that this love must be given at all times otherwise the world is cruel, spiteful and out to get them.

In reality, save for the few who have only had one relationship prior (and have little experience of breaking up, conflict, etc.) the granting of love and care is ultimately a choice that is entered into mutually with varying degrees of intensity across both (or even multiple) parties. Rationally, if the choice is not beneficial to either or both parties, then another choice can be made as to repair or discontinue the relationship. It is also a choice to further the relationship by exchanging gifts, taking holidays together, moving in and marrying etc. This choice may be "obvious" and seen not even as a choice at all despite the perceived undesirable yet still viable alternatives (staying in one's own house, for example) that are available to either party.

Like any human with human rationality and agency, the choices we make are our own responsibility. It would be unfair to blame another for the choices that we make, even if they are reached by consensus in a romantic (or even platonic) relationship. Just because you were chosen by another as significant does not mean they afford you special dispensation when this significance is later withdrawn for whatever reason. One must always take care of himself within or without a relationship - how could one have functioned prior to the relationship forming with this belief? It was never and never will be the responsibility of someone else to take care of a rational, functional, adult human being. It would be rational to remember that your significant other was once an indifferent; it is not inconceivable to think that one day they may return to that role once again.