Functional Depression

Functional Depression

Now let me get started by saying that I know that depression has varying degrees of intensity, and thank the heavens I have never had to deal with the full-blown, physically impairing type that can thankfully, nowadays, be tackled with the 21st century medications.

What I am going to talk about is the type of depression that a large chunk of humanity deals with every day, but is devalued as a non-topic. What is the absolute goal of society? Or rather, what is the goal we are told to pursue? Aside from wonderful things like life (it’s generally a good thing to be alive) and liberty (we can debate exactly how free any of us actually is), the pursuit of happiness is the forefront of, at least, western society. I say this because more often than not, even in western society, we don’t give a shit about happiness, we just want to survive and not end up in the streets destitute and abandoned by our increasingly inhuman representatives. So why bring it up? I think comedians are the philosophers of our times, and Carlos Valencia best put it when he said “If you’re not depressed, you’re not paying attention”. And ever since I heard that, I just felt so much better about this consistent and nagging “ugh” I feel every single day.

I never got that whole “ignorance is bliss” bullshit. It’s dumb, knowing is far better than not knowing. Yeah, more often than not, when you know something you didn’t your immediate reaction is “Aaah, I wish I didn’t know that”, but overall, knowing is what makes us grow, it’s one of the civilizing forces in society. Not knowing is far worse, and you can call ignorance to be bliss, it’s just a dumb and lazy way to excuse not wanting to find out more or to not care about anything outside of our own wee little bubble.

So I take time to know things, I care about what is going on in my country, I care about what is going on in my community, the country next door, countries around the world, humanity as a whole. I care about the old lady crossing the street, and whether or not I’m going to see her getting run over (something I don’t want to happen to the old lady, or to be scarred for life for witnessing) I generally care about a whole lot of things, especially in my personal circle. I care deeply and fundamentally about my partner, whether or not she’s OK, if she laughs, if she’s in pain, I care deeply about our making it to the end of the month with some money left over in the bank that we can save for our future, I care deeply about our life, so I care about knowing if I am doing well in my job, if my job has a future, if my country has a future, and I need to know when to pack our bags and bounce if things get bad in this country.

So how can you not be depressed when all sign show that work, people, communities, countries as a whole are not faring too well? How can you not be depressed when you see hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from the drudges of war or witnessing the horrors of hunger, conflict, poverty, persecution, apathy, inhumanity around the world? How the hell can I not be depressed when I have to pay taxes out of my ass to finance a state that is inefficient and does not guarantee my safety in case of a fire, how can I not be depressed when I have to work my ass off to make ends meet every month, and know that there are a whole lot of people who are waaaay worse off? Worse, knowing that there are a whole lot of people who are waaaay better off, not doing a 100th of what we have to do to survive?

So yeah, I am depressed, functionally so, but a depression nonetheless. But guess what, so are you, and so are millions of people around the world, cause at the end of the day, that cow ain’t gonna milk itself, that field ain’t gonna till itself, that spreadsheet ain’t gonna fill itself, and that bill ain’t gonna pay itself. We have to deal with life, and that’s hard. We have to witness what’s going on around us, and that’s harder. But we have choices every day that make us functioning human beings. We can laugh, we can experience momentary glimpses of joy, of happiness sitting on a couch after eating dinner with a loved one. We can experience the bliss of fleeting relaxation for a couple of hours before heading off to bed and repeating the grind all over again.

The world is depressing, but there is true beauty and joy to be had from it. It’s all momentary, and you need to know where to find it. It’s what makes most of us function. Keep your bliss all ye who choose ignorance. I am happy knowing.

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Rampaging Hypocrisy

Rampaging Hypocrisy

It’s not easy not loosing your cool in this world. It’s so much work in fact they should consider it a full-time profession with overtime up the wazoo. We go through each day bearing witness to incredible, eye-popping, jaw-dropping acts of selfish, self-centered, inhumanity, that brings us close to reacting in kind to what we see. The lack of empathy, comprehension, compassion, understanding, or emotion of any kind, turns urban life into a particularly grotesque soiree of rampaging hypocrites, who one moment denounce the social injustices of the week on social media, to right afterwards flipping the finger in traffic or cutting a line and treating a Starbucks barista with disdain and self-appointed aggrandizement.

But what to most of us do? I think there are a resisting bunch (I have no way of quantifying just how many we are) that gently shake our heads at these sad people, who after all are so involved in their little universe, they don’t even take the opportunity in sharing in the awe-inspiring experience that is being human. Noticing the myriad kindnesses that happen at every moment is far greater than suffering with the petty evils, and it becomes an addiction trying to look for the good in people while contrasting it with the dirt that’s out there. It’s not a matter of being optimistic or pessimistic, just like with any faith or ideology, that’s just adhering to a dogma that constrains our beliefs and experiences. It’s not about the glass being half empty or half full, it’s about realizing that there is a glass, and that there is water in it, that in life we experience thirst and we have ways to quench it. In any case, what I am trying to say is that not suffering with how apparently ugly the world can be is an active choice, it takes work and training, and some people do it really well. It’s about recognizing that we’re all subjected to the same grind, that life is not easy for most, and we do not have to complicate another’s already complex existence. Letting others be is not a matter of not caring. I choose to not mess with other people’s lives in respect with their common humanity, my acknowledgement of being and letting be.

It’s not apathy or disconnectedness, it’s about realizing that maybe, just maybe, the person that is next to me has been dealt a hand far worse than mine, so the last thing they need is my disapproval of how loud they’re talking on the phone while riding the metro. Yes, it’s obnoxious as hell, but it’s also their sad attempt at having their existence recognized by someone, anyone. Just put on your headphones, and blast some classical music. I dare you to sit in the metro while listening to some Mozart or Vivaldi, and just observe the people around, coming and going, each an infinite universe of possibilities and probabilities, each with a story as complex as our own. I dare you to play this little game and not have a smile on your face by the time you get to work. See? Isn’t that much better? Let them rampage along with their silly hypocrisy. You and I know what we are, if anything, we won’t get ulcers from all that bile and hate! I don’t know how many we are, but I am sure it’s what keeps the horsemen of the apocalypse at bay.

A Dedication

2015 was a rough year. The world teased us with a dish and dash of hope and despair, making us question whether and if there is any light at all in such a dark and tumultuous place. If we only paid attention to all the noise, all the crises, despair, and misery, I don’t think many of us could hope to find any light.

Good thing is that we are made up of more than just darkness, thanks to the daily doings of beings dedicated to rising our world above our expectations. Random acts of kindness which hush a symphonies of pain, moments of compassion which inspire millions to sit and watch in awe, embraces between strangers which bridge entire gaps between cultures and generations, an open hand stretched forth to those in need can echo throughout humanity. All these things we witness, all these things we do and they make us feel connected, filled with purpose, glad and happy to just be, and share, and laugh and cry for joy.

Over the course of last year I found myself thinking more and more, why I would feel such strong emotions whenever I witnessed these acts of kindness. Whenever a video depicting one of these acts, or one where compassion between people was shown, or even demonstrations of love and understanding in the animal kingdom, or whenever people would join together to do extraordinary things to help others in dire need, whenever people set aside their drive to consume less and contribute more, there are many moments that almost drove me to tears, some made me weep for the simple beauty I was witnessing.

So I found myself thinking, why do I feel this way? And today I think I realized why: these acts, these works, these endeavours are a reminder that I am not the only optimist out there. Doesn’t mean we ignore reality, it just means that we ignore all the dark, that we do our most to deafen it with our unrelenting hope that we can live in a brighter, fairer, more peaceful and more loving world.

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I wasn’t always like this, a fact that is made clear by past posts. But I know many of you have also undergone this transition, finally finding peace within yourselves, finally reaching a place where you can act and do out of love and compassion, out of hope that others will cross the canyon and reach up towards the light.

So to all of you fellow dreamers, I dedicate the year of 2015, because without you it would have easily been one of the worst years in recent memory. And to you all I dedicate 2016, let your work know no limits, your hope know no bounds. And to those who pulled me from the dark and into the light: thank you.

 

Can’t Help But Love

Can’t Help But Love

Words have always held a sort of mystical power over me. I had never found it particularly easy to express emotions with my own set of vocal chords, something I am only recently starting to learn to do. I have always however found a deep comfort in the power that transmitting my passions through the clickity clack of a keyboard brought, of making my soul’s desires appear on a screen through a deep valley of ones and zeros necessary to make thoughts turn to print. The strength one feels in seeing imagination take shape, twisting and forming syllables into words, into tangible structures, into something that can live far beyond a lifetime, is still something that inspires awe deep inside me. I can spend hours thinking about a single word, its meaning, its history, its very soul and the perfect form it represents, an absolute unattainable by physical hands, concepts which represent our ideal shared realities, and not just my own individual conceptualization.

And then I turn my mind to those who live on in posterity, those few who among the millions of souls who have walked this earth, mastered the lexicon and made their voices echo through hallowed halls, and more often than not, it was an absolute love for something that made them endure. Through their understanding of the sheer wonder that is the soul, they live eternally in our collective memory, speaking words which have been spoken for centuries, adding rhythm and cadence with every passing utterance, bringing our species and our universe a greater sense of fulfillment. It is through love, and not fear, that so many great feats were achieved throughout time immemorial; love is one of the most extraordinary things the universe ever chanced into being. A volatile yet essential force, it drives forth the very might behind survival and endurance, the will to be, the will to life, the will to power and knowledge, will which itself draws from such a simple, yet infinite well, a primordial urge, one which guides and compels us to do more, to be more, to seek more: love.

This little four letter word that means so much to so many across all walks of life, keeps the ebb and flow of the universe interesting. And I don’t just see love within our species; I find that this little force, far from being quantifiable, can be found in life itself. Different species of fauna often show a kinship with each other, even with us, and all flora demonstrate their love for themselves and for the rest of life for being the primary driving source of energy for us to consume and clean air for us to breathe. Doing what needs to be done day in and day out to ensure not only their own survival, but of entire ecosystems. I don’t think that’s just programming; there’s a will there that suggests a love of life and existence itself, and by consequence, everything else therein included.

At times when darkness seems to creep in all around us, where fear starts to rear its ugly head and compel us to move away from the light, to enact acts of hatred and violence, of injustice and corruption, to visit upon our own kind, upon other species, to act in complete antithesis to what sits within our most primary programming, it is in these times that we cannot just hope that things will get better. Hope leads us across a pit of fiery coals; faith makes us leap over it. Now more than ever we need faith, not in religion, not in dogma, not in politics or ideology, we need faith in humanity, we need faith in LIFE. We need to realize that we are not yet all that we can be, that there is much more to achieve, that the path ahead is not build atop the mistakes we have made a thousand times before, but by the lessons of a turbulent existence as humanity learns to crawl, then walk and now run. We can achieve a level of kinship, of understanding, of feeling and tolerance and justice, of want for love and to give love, to adore and be kind to one another, of shining a bright torch unto every corner of existence and declaring our divine right to be, to persevere, to persist. We will not be worthy of remembrance if we succumb to ideals which are momentary at best, empty at worst. Greed, jealousy, wrath, violence, intolerance, hate, apathy, indifference… There is so much we have yet to learn but what brings me an undying hope, a deep faith in humanity, in life itself, is how far we have come. More and more we are waking up to the reality that this need not be so, that we need not go march in some direction just because someone with a heart full of hate and avarice wills us to. We are less and less subject to the fears they try to sell us, we are less and less willing to swallow the lies they feed us. We have followed blindly for centuries but we are waking up. And as bit by bit the awakening of our kind ripples across the continents, over borders and barriers and imagined differences between you and me, as one by one we open our eyes, we get closer to our imperative: to become a species worthy of being universal, to break through the boundaries of our cradle and endure across space and time.

All darkness can fade within a single momentary flash of pure light, and I’ll be damned if we are not capable of achieving beautiful wonders which just breathe love out of every pore. The musical masterpieces, the works of art, the literary wonders, and the simple acts of kindness I see every single day walking down the street. So much happens that I can only catch glimpses here and there. And I don’t just see little moments of darkness, no, not anymore. Not since I was compelled by someone, in a moment of unconditional love, to stop and take a deeper look, to look again and ignore the shadows in favor of the light. And so I did. Now I can only try to not lose myself within all the little details I see, the momentary glimpses I catch at the happiness and joy which seems to cover this world yet we are too preoccupied with petty things to take note. I now live in a state of constant breathlessness, a state where I can’t help but love. I can’t help but smile at the laughter of children playing; I can’t help but grin at young and old couples passing by tenderly holding hands; I can’t help but love the sound of nature mingling with our bustling concrete jungles; I can’t help but admire the words and drawings concocted by masters long-dead yet forever immortal; I can’t help but adore the music that beams out of everyone’s mouths.

Now I wake up every morning ready for what the day will bring, realizing that every day I will be wooed by humanity’s admirable tenacity, that I will be seduced by nature’s never ending splendor, that I will lose myself in the infinite beauty of a single Rose, that I will wake up and just stand in complete adoration of the universe itself and realize that I just can’t help but fall in love with life with every breath I take.

Our Passion for More

Our Passion for More

There is an inescapable truth to this, our reality: with or without us, everything around us for billions and billions of light-years will likely just carry on, unaware and ignorant to our doings, mere momentary quivers within a fraction of a dot somewhere within the darkness of the night sky. The words of Shakespeare and Chaucer, the works of Mozart and Beethoven, the deeds of conquerors and Nobel laureates, will all fade into the obscurity the moment that we slip up and blow out our candle. All it takes is one breath, vigorous enough to extinguish all light on this beautiful blue orb we live in, or in the very least, the only life that immediately matters to us, our species.

It need not be this way. Ours is a light that burns brighter and stronger with each passing day, our will to exist and endure is pervasive, our destiny, glorious. It has almost been seven decades since we discovered the power of the atom and how to harness it for either fueling our homes, or assuring our self-annihilation. So far, we have shown that we can handle this power, that we are worthy of the knowledge we seek and retain, that we are slowly maturing and reaching adulthood. It is only when our emotions are misguided, when our ideological, ethnic, political, religious and so many differences come face to face, that we edge towards the brink. However in the great scheme of everything, this is just downright silly. Beyond everything we are, beyond everything we strive to be, our momentary, infantile quarrels should not be responsible for placing everything in jeopardy. Think of all the generations of explorers who would not be grounded by the status quo, all of the brave souls who dared venture into unexplored oceans, untapped forests, never before seen nooks hidden all around our world, all the minds who dared push theorems further and further, all the artists and writers, poets and orators, lovers and tycoons, all the individuals who collectively make up the collective spirit of our species, it becomes clear that we have walked many steps on our journey of a thousand miles.

Think of how many of our species looked at their immediate surroundings and would not be satisfied, who when told to sit still, shouted an emphatic “no.” We have never been good at just sitting around and obey the rules, especially when those very rules would have us go against our conscience, against our instincts. Ours is a species built for discovery, for exploring the very limits of the frontier. We itch for new frontiers, we have reached the horizon right here on Earth, the time has come to turn our gazes, again, to the heavens for therein lies our true home. Without the cosmos we would not be. Right now we, we sit here in our cradle, and we wonder what could be next. But we know. Every time we gaze up at the stars, we feel the same hunger that so many others across the centuries felt when they looked out upon the impossible. This next leap may seem impossible, but just as our ancestors looked out upon the shimmering moonlight atop the vastness of the deep blue sea with a momentary hesitation, so do we feel unsure about our next great leap into the great beyond. This feeling however is momentary; we are merely bursting with eagerness, as if a child readying to open a perfectly wrapped present on Christmas day. What follows is an epic new chapter for our species, one which will begin the moment we choose to work together, and venture out and claim our place among the stars. Not because we must, not because we want to, but because it is inscribed into our very beings, it is our imperative, our call home. We will wade through the vast waters of the Milky Way, and we will shine our light far beyond the borders of Earth. Not just because we can, but because we will.

Chasing the Light

Recently, I was nudged by someone into taking a step back from myself, set aside my anger and my frustrations, my idealizations of what the world should be, to let go of my brooding darkness resulting from my broken hopes for humanity, to stop, take a breath and for a moment consider the light. Beyond optimism and pessimism, beyond realism and romanticism, beyond all the one-word isms we define ourselves by, consider life for what it is, let all prejudice fall right through the cracks, and observe rather than judge.

So I took that step, away from myself, away from my surroundings, my city, my country, my life. I distanced myself further from this point, farther and farther, beyond our oceans and our blanketing atmosphere, and imagined what it would be like to move beyond the reaches of our satellites, away from the grasp of all our words and deeds. I then stop and take a moment to look, to [look] again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone [I] love, everyone [I] know, everyone [I] ever heard of, every human being who ever was lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

These words echo through my mind, becoming a whisper in my ears, a mantra, a soft prayer reminding me, consoling me that we are more than what we are, than what we seem, what we are capable of. We are the embodiment of our collective experience, our accumulated will for life, our hunger to know more and to strive for higher ground, of honoring those who came before us and to lay forth an everlasting legacy for those yet to come. The fact that we exist, on this tiny point within a sea of darkness, is a remarkable acclamation of the Universe’s will to shed light wherever there is none. Seen from afar, it seems trivial to consider the atrocities we bring on each other. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent [our] misunderstandings, how eager [we] are to kill one another, how fervent [our] hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

To hope, to dream, to wish for a brighter dawn for our species can at times seem foolish, and a fool I have been called, a naïve dreamer who thrives on experiencing the joys and wonders we bring to life with the power of our will. But so much stands in our way, we keep ourselves from seeing our most sacred imperative to bear: to spread our reach beyond our cradle, and thrive for millennia across the vast oceans of the cosmos. Yet our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged positions in the Universe are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. What we have is each other, and like so many times before in our history, we can perform miracles that elevate us beyond our normality, that redefines what it means to be, to have a sense of humanity for each other, for showing compassion and empathy and love for strangers across the rivers and mountains and oceans of our minute, yet infinite world.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. Millions across the world are rising, thirsting for justice, for equality, for a deeper sense of humanity. We have done the impossible before and we will surely do it again. For our species the word impossible represents an abstract ideal; we know that when we collaborate, when we strive for a common goal, when humanity itself is at stake, we break through the barriers of the impossible and reach whole new plateaus of opportunity. We will take this torch, passed down from generation to generation, and shed our light into every nook and cranny of this world and beyond.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. 

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Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the timeless work of Carl Sagan and his iconic Pale Blue Dot speech which I have inserted into this essay. Sagan knew how to separate himself from the darkness, and to inspire millions with the warmth of the light he shared with us, a personal reminder that kindness, curiosity and love for each other can be the foundation for a caring, thriving species. With the conclusion of a second generation of Cosmos, I am very grateful for living in a time where his dreams could become a reality. Thank you Carl Sagan, thank you Ann Druyan, and thank you Neil deGrasse Tyson for reminding us that we should never despair, because we never know what light may shine around the corner.