Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Where we exist first

The Girl Goes Bold

Drawing by Lee van Laer, 2016
Created in Procreate, with iPad pro and apple pencil

Everyone ends up, at one time or another in life, having to cope with depression of some kind. It's normal. Depression is an odd thing; I have friends who are engaged in epic, heroic — no exaggeration — struggles with destructively dysfunctional children, who somehow manage to keep their chin up and be positive, and know others who become deeply depressed for no apparent reason. Depression is a paradox that draws a red line through everything, a line that irrationally bisects life as it meanders between events.

Andrew Solomon — a man whose book Far From The Tree simply must be read! — recounted his experience of this in the noonday demon.  His thoughts on the matter are far-reaching. Yet an encounter with this experience may take on a different color for those engaged in the act of inward observation and an effort to cultivate one's soul, one's essence.

I generally get depressed at this time of year. Knowing that it is cyclical, and that there is a seasonal aspect to it, I do have the chance to prepare; and that has at least armed me to cast a more clinical eye on the nature of my negativity as it arises. I've noted years ago that I am always most negative in the morning, before my centers establish a harmonious rhythm and speed between and one another; and it is at this time that paranoid, negative thoughts — each one a separate person who wants to impose a dark interpretation of life — compete within the associative part of my mind for supremacy. It's really quite remarkable how creative these paranoid negative thoughts are. One wonders which dark crevices of the soul harbors such fears. Yet there they are; undeniably a part of me, and if I don't have a part of myself that sees them from inside myself, yet outside themselves, I think that they are who I am.

This is the great danger. When I think that my negative parts are who I am, when I identify with them — that is, I become them, instead of seeing them as things that arise in me— They acquire the weight of truth. This is quite normal in human beings, and almost all of the negativity we see expressed in today's society and today's politics — 99.99% of it, in point of fact — emerges from exactly this phenomenon. Almost everything we fear is imaginary; and yet we buy it, everything, including the postage for the envelope.

Bosch fearlessly delved in to this dark pool of fear in his visions of hell; yet this is an inner restaurant where we serve ourselves, not some external threat to our existence. We ought to become clear—all the real threats to our existence come from inside ourselves,  because that is where we exist first.

 I exist first here, within myself, and I need to see that more clearly. If that means that I come up against my depression as an objective force, rather than just a subjective one, there's the potential to understand it as a passing phenomenon, instead of a permanent state.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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