We express love because the gratification of love is enormous, and we continue to express love and to act protectively because the loss of love is traumatic. If we did not experience pain on the demise of those we love, if we had the pleasure of love but felt nothing when the object of our love is destroyed, we would be considerably less protective than we are.
It may also be that the very structure if consciousness opens the pathway to depression…To give up the essential conflict between what we feel like doing and what we do, to end the dark moods that reflect that conflict and its difficulties–this is to give up what it is to be human, of what is good in being human.
–Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.
Reflection is a sign of consciousness, the ability to take in information and observe how it feels to be oneself in the face of that information, and to assess the impact of behaviors and actions and catastrophes and deaths. Socrates, the irritating questioner, required of human beings that capacity of reflectiveness. Solomon suggests this reflective ability is natural to people who undergo a depressive episode: “The unexamined life is unavailable to the depressed.” (italics mine)
Yet it is also this reflective consciousness which permits recovery among those who’ve been in the abyss, and sometimes a kind of bounce into remission/relief. Solomon adds that “[p]eople who have been through a depression and stabilized often have a heightened awareness of the joyfulness of everyday existence. They have a capacity for a kind of ready ecstasy and for an intense appreciation of all that is good in their life.”
That sense of “ready ecstasy” often acts as the impetus for poetry, in my experience. I am not sure that joyful awareness was worth the pain and despair–couldn’t I have just achieved heightened awareness through, say, meditation, song, or religion? Nonetheless, if I can craft a relationship with depression that is not a destabilizing battle, that’s enough for me. The recognition of joy and the critical thinking that reflection deepens in my consciousness keep me striving.
Yesterday morning, early, in the long grass, the three-legged doe gave birth to a fawn. I watched as they emerged from the meadow and headed for the woodlot together, mama still licking the little one.
Earth delivers ecstasies readily, if only we will observe.
Only when the student is truly ready does the teacher appear. Yet the teacher is always present. It is ultimately a question of willingness to see, hear, sense.
Recognizing the teacher as a teacher isn’t always easy. And depression is a hard headmaster. But. The teaching remains valuable.
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Beautiful… Reminded me of a Simone Weil quote I reference in my latest WIP:
To lose someone: we suffer because the departed, the absent, has become something imaginary and unreal. But our desire for him is not imaginary. We have to go down into ourselves to the abode of the desire which is not imaginary. Hunger: we imagine kinds of food, but the hunger itself is real: we have to fasten on to the hunger. The presence of the dead person is imaginary, but his absence is very real: henceforward it is his way of appearing.
It’s from Gravity & Grace which appears to have gone out of print for some unfathomable reason. I may be wrong about that. I did manage to find an ebook version. Give me a shout if you are interested.
There’s a PDF version of it available online at http://www.mercaba.org. I shall have to read it in my copious spare time. Thanks!