The backdrop to this self portrait is my laptop monitor, the blurry white characters compose my rotating text screensaver reading "Papa Ivan Loves You."
Below are a few edited excerpts from my conversation with Dave which (in a punched up form) I decided to commemorate as a separate post.
I do agree with you that depression can add perspective to the afflicted. All successful writers or thinkers whose biographies I am familiar with dealt with this malady in one way or another. The link between a certain type of depression and creative output is an old, trite idea. But repetition doesn't make something untrue.
If you are on the road of life it pays to focus on that road and ignore everything else. Optimism is about that act of censorship of the unpleasant realities of life. You are aware of them but they are in your peripheral vision. If you are depressed the whole picture is exposed to your weary eyes.
You see the people who have fallen off that road. The addicts, the mentally ill, victims of violence, the freaks. They are not peripheral.
I can't claim that the insane brutality of the twentieth century is an ever-present reality to me. Although around a third of my family died in World War II, I never came close to being a victim of war or genocide.
Yet I often think of taking all the victims of man-made conflicts, famines and slaughters that happened in past hundred years and placing them into a huge mountain of the dead, asking if this pile warrants us to use the word "inhuman" when we encounter brutality.
We are the most bloodthirsty animals to ever walk the earth. Killing is more human than technology, art, science and organized religion. These are later artifacts of our progress but killing has always been with us; killing and fucking are our universal traits. Animals kill for rational reasons, humans just kill.
Our bloody digits aren't totally real to me, coagulated blood doesn't spill form history books on my shelf but since I am depressed -and my mind untrained to filter out this vile spectacle to its periphery- this blood is not as fictional and abstract to me as it might be to your regular, well-adjusted pedestrian.
If you are cerebrally depressed, this trail of blood is as familiar to you as the entitled smiles of a fat Caucasian babies.This total awareness of the dead gives the observer a fuller, darker perspective of our shared existence.
As you see mounds of mangled corpses on the side of the highway of life, your concern is that this total vision is a determent to your focus on the road. It makes the whole exercise of going forward less meaningful.
When one is submerged in this vision, you want to pull over, you want to remove yourself from the whole thing. And -in my case at least- you sit there on the sidelines watching your life go by; afflicted with a kind of existential laziness.
Others are severely bipolar and as they swirl recklessly on this road and this manic jerking around gives them energy and the perspective for bouts creative output.
If one were to go see a prostitute, the phallus and the attached brain component would react the same as it would to any woman of similar sex appeal. The arousal mechanism remains blissfully unaware that currency has been exchanged for its gratification.
In the same way, when you go to see a shrink there is a part of your brain -slightly advanced than your lizard brain- that responds to empathy and understanding, clueless that the empathy is being paid for.
And if you are lucky enough to find an intelligent therapist they can actually add novel perspectives to your lives. Generally the same thoughts rotate over and over in your head, striking the same shitty notes. A new perspective on old hurts can create a new melody.
I don't have the Freudian understanding that mental pain and neurosis are cause by untied knots in your unconscious. Knots that, once untied, will set you free.
I view the depressed mind as a broken vehicle that needs constant maintenance to function. A good therapist, a decently successful life and solid relations with friends, family and lovers can provide this.
Another bonus is that you can take all of that depressed "existence is meaningless" stuff off your chest and interact in a different way with people in your private life, because constantly unloading your pain on people who are unpaid to hear it can be draining for them and detrimental to your bonds.