a bit of a one-off podcast to get the muscles going again.  More of a emotional tinge to this one, as we talk about the epidemic of depression, and what it might mean.

 podcast page here

Direct download: a_kind_of_madness.mp3

… I’m rethinking my approach to a number of things right now, so expect some twists sometime soon.

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8 thoughts on “a kind of madness

  1. I think you seriously misapprehend what depression is, the purposes it serves in human social life, and the reason it has grown so explosively in the last few decades.

    Please read the following:

    http://biology.unm.edu/Biology/pwatson/public_html/dp1.htm

    Then consider how more frequent and intense episodes of depression among a growing segment of the population (i.e., epidemic depression) might be a *natural* response to social atomization resulting from intolerable political and economic stresses on human communities and families.

  2. Well, it sounded as if you were taking a “blame the victim” stance toward depression. The chronically depressed have “given up” and are content to “wallow” in their misery, etc., etc. I find that perplexing, as well as alarming, coming from a Buddhist. You should be more acutely aware than most that nothing in this universe emerges wholly formed from the void (pratityasamutpada, I think it’s called — dependent origination), and that characterizing depression as a purely idiosyncratic (that is, individual) phenomenon is both disingenuous and rather callous. People don’t just decide to be depressed, nor is depression a kind of surrender. Depression is, like the attempted suicide that often accompanies it, a call for help, subconsciously designed to overpower ordinary skepticism and reluctance to alter established relationships. In our atomized society, with the gulf between human beings grown so very large, depression must become ever deeper and more severe to get the message across: I need help, and your resistance is not bettering the situation.

  3. I can see how you might see that, but it’s not quite so simple.

    partly, I realise I’m taking a somewhat conflicted position, and dealing more with emotions than rigorous logic.

    to me there’s always a tension between the kind of conditioned, dependantly originated karma that you’re talking about, and the autonomy that comes from cultivating mindfullness through vipassana. bearing in mind that said autonomy is relative to one’s postion. what looks like free choice fropm one vantage point appears utterly robotic to another. I don’t think you can resolve it down to one of another for sure. that’s more dualism, and I’m quite sure that’s not dharma.

    calling for help presupposes that one has given up on helping themselves. the atomisation of society and whatnot are window dressing, they may contribute, but they are not causative.

  4. Great to hear you again, Zac!

    My pet ‘take’ on depression is the Freudian view of unconscious anger against the self. (I thought it was interesting when you said: ‘depression makes me angry’.) I don’t know how this slots in with the Buddhist psychology, but I can’t see depression as the holding of a set of ideas (‘hopelessness’, ‘meaninglessness’, or whatever); it has to be one’s emotional response to an idea, because I can think about my depression, or I can remember my depression, without necessarily getting depressed.

    In the Freudian view, being depressed is not about ‘knowing too much’ (realising the meaninglessness of one’s existence, or whatever), but about not knowing enough – i.e. not understanding the unconscious cause of anger against the self. It’s a serious case of ‘ignorance’, I suppose, in the Buddhist sense.

    Duncan.

  5. I don’t know that a depression is necessarily avoidable–organic things go through cycles and require feedback, etc. And suicides, at least in the US, are predominantly white men in late middle age–they simply don’t have the heartbreak factor that teen suicide does. So I’m not all that willing to buy Howard Bloom’s programmed cell-death explanation (or, for that matter, most of his speculation).

    If anything, my initial theory is that depression stems from simply having a lot of choices of varying appeal but many of them exclusive to one another. You can’t make a choice without making restrictions. While that’s perennial, modern circumstances have been exacerbated, what with the 20th Century economic boom, which made so much stuff accessible to the masses. I’d also compliment this by agreeing with Duncan: when I recall any periods of depression the strongest component was a felt sense of agitation, with sadness and bewilderment being secondary. I also remember any suicidal impulses being not so much stemming from sadness, but just and only a frightening compulsion. I undertand some others who have attempted suicide to only have understood what their intent was in retrospect–a friend once told me that it wasn’t until after he got released from an intensive care ward that his sudden decision one friday night after a drink or two that led him to eat a whole bottle of pills wasn’t just him trying to get fucked up. So I’d suggest it’d be a product of the “delusional” and “ignorant” mind, and not necessarily conditioned by some sadness or lack of purpose.

  6. well, i suppose I’m not getting far enough into my thoughts to dispell confusion about what I mean, but it wasn’t really my intent with this piece to do so anyway.

    if i may switch metaphors again, ithink it has something to do with the lack of percieved ability of the organism to achieve emotional/physical discharge, in the reichian sense. that could take a lot of forms, but would eventually trigger the organism to go into a depressive state to minimise the strain. suicidal or self destructive behavior would be the logical end point of thwarted impulses that line up with, in some cases a feeling a of helplessness or hopelessness.

  7. I used to think that once a person had discovered his or her Purpose that was enough to live happily ever after. It’s funny how many times I need to remind myself of the point you raise at the end – just do what needs to be done and fuck the rest. What’s superflous to that Will, no matter how wonderful or dear at the time, will only be replaced by that which is dearer still once that Will is implemented. I guess complete surrender to your Will (or angel) does look like dangerous abandon or a kind of madness, but when it comes down to it, is it really as insane as investing your trust in arbitrary conditioning or the materialistic fantasies of society at large?

    Following your True Will really isn’t easy, but if being broke is the trade off for kicking ass with a woman at my side who actually understands me, I’m happy to live on baked beans and pot noodles for the rest of my life.

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