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Last night and this morning were the first times that it wasn’t unbearably hot in my room. I live on the top floor of a Tufts owned house, in what is a rather nice two person apartment. In a few days, I imagine it will seem completely like home.
There’s a generation of us who seem to be just over the whole experience of college. A friend of mine with whom I spoke last night, who also spent the time from January to the end of summer doing non-student things, used similar words, and I realized that they described my feelings pretty well, and in a way I hadn’t been able to articulate.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I remarked. I think we’ll come to balance the “normality” we left behind with that otherness, and both experiences will be richer for it. But I’ve been looking around me the last few days, and what I feel verges disturbingly on vanity. Another good reason to hope for that balance!
In other news, it looks like the old Sunday adage will hold, where I can begin the day after 1 pm and still finish everything. But Sunday isn’t over yet, so I guess we’ll see.
The best of me was two weeks at the very end of the spring term of junior year, during which my US History term paper came due, I played the bulk of a very fulfilling variant of Diplomacy online with twelve friends, and my theater group teched our production of Hamlet. I averaged about four to six hours of sleep a night. I would finish classes at 6, drive a half hour to Portsmouth while scarfing down whatever dinner I could find, rehearse until midnight, and then come home to do homework, however long it took. I loved all of it.
I would like to be that person again.
A bassline is the subtext of a song, and I think the part that ultimately elicits the most emotion. But unconsciously. We attribute evocation more to the melody, or lyrics if the song has it, but bass vibrates the soul.
One of the main characters in my novel, Aidan, is designed around the idea that the most power lies in what’s unspoken and unseen, in subversion rather than assault. Perhaps even what’s unspeakable. It’s a curious paradox to me that I believe in this, and yet also strive to quantify everything. Thinking about this a little further after the original posting, Aidan resolves this dilemma, in a sense. In a later part of my novel, he becomes spymaster for a city-state in a post-war galaxy of fractured nations. Precisely by quantifying everything that’s unspoken and unseen in the world of secret intelligence does he manage to do his job. But that only takes care of two-thirds of the issue. What about naming the unnameable?
I don’t consider such a process reductive, unlike a lot of people close to me. For example, recently some of those people quit Facebook after Timeline was introduced because they found such a detailed system for online scrapbooking to be necessarily so. Rather than reductive, I think it’s just expanding terms, words, tangible secular human systems of control, to settle comfortably around intangibles, to chase and ride their borders of layers and implication and meaning as they expand into the deep. Behind their decision to leave Facebook was a growing concern that more and more people nowadays actually do reduce people to their online components, instead of taking it as one part of the larger person. And it’s a concern that I share. But to me, once you understand the reductive aspect and reject it, casting a net of quantity to cuddle with quality is just chasing the unknown. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
All of that said, it should bother me more that I can’t conceive of all the shades of grey within a single bassline. But it doesn’t (although it did bother me that the only thing I needed to finish this post was absolute silence.) Sometimes, I guess, until you can figure something out, you just have to stand in awe of it.
(I might come back to this later. I’ve already done so once, and I’ve actually been mulling this since last night. So we will see. :) )
I took a walk today. It rained for most of the day, and all of yesterday, and most of the past week, but it cleared up this evening and after an involuntary four-hour nap (my sleep schedule is still a little fucked) in the middle of the day, I was eager to get out and do something. Also, it was a good way to procrastinate my packing.
I was also really excited because it was just cold enough to make my usual summer clothing an uncomfortable choice. Coming from New England, a lot of my favorite clothing is designed for cooler temperatures. I finally got the chance to wear the blue pants I’d impulse bought in Christchurch two months ago but that it’s been too hot to wear. I also pulled on my grey jacket, incidentally also an impulse buy last October, which I hadn’t worn since Japan, in the beginning. I really like it. It’s a nice spring jacket and a good color and looks super cool. It is possibly the coolest thing I own (apart from a bow tie.) Also it has lots of pockets, and my pipe pouch fits perfectly into one of them.
I suspect that the Whiskey Cavendish I added last time is responsible for the syrupy flavor I’ve gotten twice now when I first start burning the bowl. The pouch is almost empty so I’m thinking I’ll load up with a greater ratio of that since I haven’t really had the chance to experience it yet. It didn’t burn particularly well a few months ago. I still don’t think I’m very good at actually smoking the damn thing, but it’s a practical science, and I now have good bowls more often than not.
The sunset was pretty dazzling, blinding orange right when I walked outside, and as I circled the park trying to catch different angles on it, strips of blue began to marble it. Against a midground of the Sydney skyline, it was something that I spent a good ten minutes staring at. A radio playlist (I think from December 9 of last year?) was already in progress on my iPod when I turned it on and I let it run. Something I hadn’t heard for a while, something, in fact, I hadn’t listened to in combination with a pipe, my jacket, and a cool night for months; sad Blink-182. When that ended, I switched to another radio playlist (they’ve made me really lazy about original mixes!) and kept walking. Like the previous one, it was peppered liberally with the sort of frenetic balls-to-the-wall type songs that I then realized made up an outsize portion of last summer. Why, I don’t know. But the experience of last summer was certainly all of that. Whether the miasma of that summer infliltrated the songs or vice versa or both versa, I’m not sure. I pick things apart enough that sometimes, I’m content to just let the experience lie, whole.
It made me wonder why last summer was like that, why I’ve been craving it ever since. Because it was impossibly rich, impossibly kinetic. And suddenly I felt like I’d caught the scent of some grand epiphany. Perhaps if I know the cause of my wanderlust, I can curtail it enough that I don’t feel obligated to go chasing something around the world.
I once had a long conversation with a friend of mine about religious faith. He has it, and I don’t, and I felt like he could inform me about it. Going into the conversation, I wasn’t naive enough to think that something as subjective and sensual as faith could be completely described with words, and this hunch was vindicated at the end of our conversation, when he added, “But what we’ve been doing here is just theology, not faith.”
"Okay, so in order to understand faith, you need to experience it?" I asked.
"No," he said. "In order to know faith, you have to feel it."
It’s the same with depression, I think. One of my favorite essays has a beautiful line where the author, writing about his friend the late David Foster Wallace, describes trying to intellectually bridge the divide between his own neuroses and David’s mental illness. He says:
And yet one of the lessons of David’s work (and, for me, of being his friend) is that the difference between well and not well is in more respects a difference of degree than of kind. Even though David laughed at my much milder addictions and liked to tell me that I couldn’t even conceive of how moderate I was, I can still extrapolate from these addictions, and from the secretiveness and solipsism and radical isolation and raw animal craving that accompany them, to the extremity of his.
It’s true up to a point. But only up to a point. If you’re intelligent enough and emphatic enough, you can perceive to a certain extent just what it is to be depressed. But I don’t believe anybody truly knows what it is to be that way unless they are. Because it really is hard to wrap your mind around. It’s hard to intellectually comprehend the heaviness and the fatigue a depressed person feels when they’re in the worst of it, the unwillingness to do anything despite the richness of the world outside and all the books and films and friends of which you can partake. This is the assertion I ask you, the reader, to accept.
I played the depression card once, just once, to explain a particularly reprehensible act of passion. Nobody believed me, but I didn’t feel as embarrassed as I could have, because contrary to what they thought, it was the only explanation there was. I would never have done that had I not been worn down enough to believe that a harsher response was the best one. It is hard for people to understand the full effect of depression on a person, how it worms its way into every aspect of your life and depreciates each one, like one of those algebraic functions that shift the whole system three points lower. It is not an explanation I am particularly proud of, and one I have made it my work to resist for several years. Denying it legitimacy is fighting it, for me. But until it is defeated, it still exists. And it has never fully gone away. And sometimes, it is the only explanation.
I, too, never understood what it was to not want to get out of bed every day until it actually happened to me. When I talk to my friends about it, certain of them will say things like, “Well, think positively!” or something. Positive thinking has its own potency, but it only goes so far. How much can conscious projection really do when it’s the same consciousness you’re fighting against?
When I think about ways to describe my depression, I think about the Silence: not the actual aliens, but the concept. “Silence will fall when the question is asked” had a particular resonance with me from the moment it was uttered on the TV that had nothing at all to do with Doctor Who. Because I think that when you are depressed, you could accurately be said to be battling your own silence; the illness that threatens to silence you, metaphorically or in some tragic cases, quite literally. And what is the question? It’s different for all of us, really. The factors which underpin my depression may be different from another person’s. But I know that for me, it’s actually a particular question.
None of this is meant to be an admission of defeat, or indicative of a learned helplessness. You truly feel defeat when you muster everything you have to bear against depression and fail to make a mark. What this is, rather, is acceptance that sometimes you can only win so much at a time, and that it is okay and natural to fall short sometimes, even frequently. That it’s attrition, not blitzkrieg. This acceptance is only possible because of another acceptance, one which I think people often forget about and which I consider myself lucky to possess. That in the future, sometime, somehow, things are going to be all right. That you will get better. That this person who likes to sleep the day away and flee from discourse and who has started to feel a deadness in his chest near constantly is not really you, as status quo as all of that seems.
I always find constancy in the process of creation, the faith that, if I give something enough time to simmer in my head, it will germinate delicious soup. That realization, coming right now in the second hour of a new day of travel, is more comforting to me than anything I’ve recently encountered. And comfort, any solid comfort that I can trust, is a very, very good thing.