Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud; Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun, And loathsome canker lies in sweetest blog

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and thus, perforce, it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I expect I’ll be brief today; there’s really not much to say or to add.  Of course, regular readers may well point out that such a thing has never stopped me from rambling on in the past, and it may be that this is going to be another such occasion.  But I doubt it.

I haven’t been following the news too closely, except to scan headlines, because frankly, it’s even more depressing than usual.  I’m not referring to the viral pandemic per se; of course, that’s sad and worrisome, but that’s nature.  It’s not our ally in general.  It’s not our enemy either, because if it were, we’d long since have been toast.  It simply is.

No, the depressing thing is reading about what people are saying and doing, especially those who are saying the most—news people, politicians, pundits, etc.  In the brief audio podcast that I recently posted on Iterations of Zero, I spoke in passing of treating this virus as a sort of alien invasion, something that could unite humanity in solidarity against a common enemy.  I guess it would need to be a much worse virus to do that.

Instead, this being an election year in the US, the pandemic itself is politicized.  I suspect if there really were an alien invasion, in the current political climate, that too would be made into a point of contention between the parties.  Not to say that the current administration doesn’t strongly deserve criticism (in being both unreasonably critical of others and being frankly unprofessional in innumerable ways), but the opposition is just as childish, petty, spiteful, and embarrassing.  I must assume that they think they aren’t; they believe they’re inherently on the side of “right”.  This is rarely a good thing.  People do the most deplorable things when they’re certain that they’re right.

I often need to remind myself of my own words, which I’ve said to others in reassurance: “Assholes just tend to make a lot of noise, even though they’re pretty much all full of shit.”  There are a vast number of serious, positive, quiet people (I guess we could liken them to the hearts and brains* of our collective body) who work hard and get things done.  Google has been tipping a hat to many of them recently in its daily doodles, and that’s nice, for what it’s worth.  But it would be good for us all to remind themselves that it is for such people that our elected officials—who are our servants, not our leaders—should be working, not for their own self-aggrandizement, and certainly not for special interests who give them lots of campaign money.

I sometimes think it would be nice if we brought back old Roman punishments for bribery.  Not that the Romans were particularly good at keeping their elected officials in check.

Anyway, that huge show of low-quality comedy is what’s depressing to me.  Well, that’s one of the things.  Another has to do with neurotransmitters and self-reinforcing patterns of electrochemical activity in my brain, the full nature of which is beyond science’s current complete understanding and is certainly not within my own control.  But I should try to follow Mr. Rogers’s mother’s advice and look for the helpers.

Though, given my peculiar turn of mind, I sometimes can’t help but feel depressed even when I do that.  You probably don’t want to know why.

All that said, I’m at least getting work done on Unanimity, though not as quickly as by rights I ought to be, given the circumstances.  And I’m trying, very hard, to readjust my workout and diet to improve my health.  I need to lose weight badly**, and I suspect that medications for depression are, ironically, making that more difficult.  That fact, though, at least doesn’t depress me.  After all, we shouldn’t expect answers to be simple when we’re trying to adjust the most complex thing we know of in the universe.*** It doesn’t depress me that nature is difficult, because I never had any expectation that it would be otherwise.  It’s a big, old, complicated universe, and we are so small as to barely exist.

And that, weirdly enough, fills me with enough awe, wonder, and excitement—and joy—that it can overpower even the melancholy induced by human folly.  Go figure.

TTFN


*As well as all the other essential organs? Probably that’s overextending the metaphor.

**Okay, actually, it would better if I lost weight well.

***That’s not just my brain, that’s any human brain.  I’m not that egotistical.

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden, that grows to seed; blogs rank and gross in nature possess it merely.

ulysses

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I didn’t sleep well last night—even by my standards—so if I say something even more bizarre or incoherent than usual, I can only apologize and beg you to bear with me.

It’s been a moderately interesting week.  I can honestly say I think I’m finally starting to see some effects of my new depression treatment regimen (not “regime”).  This can’t mean as much to all of you as it does to me, but nonetheless it’s probably a welcome thought for those committed to following this blog.  At least it means—if I’m correct in my assessment—that I’ll be less likely to write quite such dreary things as sometimes drip from my computer when I’m wallowing in the dumps.

I posted an audio smidgen—only about seven minutes long, if memory serves—on Iterations of Zero yesterday, though it was recorded a week ago. People don’t seem to be responding much to those, so I may relegate them to history’s anonymous junk heap and go back to trying to find time to write about such topics instead of simply moaning and groaning aloud about them.  That’s fine, though.  Written language is more efficient.  It’s also the lifeblood of civilization, besides being the love of my life.

I did, though, on a whim whose source I can’t really credit, decide yesterday to start doing audio for my second latest short story Penal Colony.  I had no specific plans for how much to do, but before I’d finished for the day, I’d recorded about forty-seven minutes of unedited audio, getting more than thirty percent through the story (based on Kindle’s reckoning).  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy reading my stories aloud.  I may go back to it in something like earnest (but not like Frank, I don’t like that guy), doing audio for Free Range Meat, and then resuming the audio for The Chasm and the Collision, for which I think I stopped after chapter nine.  Then, who knows, maybe my other books and stories will follow.

It’s gonna be some time before I get to doing audio for Unanimity, though.  Just thinking about it is daunting.

As further evidence of my gradual but hopeful improvement of chronic mood disorder, I sent out copies of the latest version of Unanimity and my partially complete novella with the working title Safety Valve to my sister and to a dear friend from my youth (both of whom share my love of reading), just in case, as I think I put it, something happens to me.  This may seem morbid and not at all non-depressed at first glance, but it’s a departure.  When I’m deeply in the throes of depression, I become almost completely nihilistic at numerous levels, such that I think that if I die, I really don’t care what happens to my writing, no matter how much work has gone into it…and there has been a LOT of work.  Needless to say, if I were to die, I would not then care what happened to my writing, but the me now can care—or not—about things that the nonexistent future me will be unable to choose to care about or not…if that makes any sense.

Anyway, the fact that I did it shows at least some improvement.  It’s still possible that I might do something successfully self-destructive*, but at least I’m acting to prophylax against such occurrences.

As for other things…I’m studiously avoiding following the process of the presidential trial in the Senate.  I already feel a thoroughgoing contempt for pretty much everyone involved in the government—and by extension many of the people who keep electing them—and in my currently improving but still-fragile mood, I just don’t need the exposure to all the stupidity, vanity, ignorance with wings, hubris, manipulation (successful and otherwise), and petty monkey-poop throwing by a collection of supposed public servants who actually serve no one but themselves, and don’t even do that very well.  It’s spectacles such as these that lead me to the calm, resigned feeling that, hey, it’s not such a big loss if humanity, and even the whole planet Earth, just withers and dies.  It’s gonna happen someday anyway; it might as well be sooner rather than later.

I can do without reinforcing that feeling.  It’s already hard enough to argue against it logically; I’d like to curb the emotion.  Otherwise, I might start working on a doomsday machine of my own to see if I can hasten the end.

Don’t worry, don’t worry.  At least as of now, I’m not doing any such thing.

Humanity doesn’t really need my help, do they?

TTFN


*Of course, there are always external dangers to life and limb for us all, and sooner or later they do catch up to us, but I tend to be by far the greatest threat to my own continued existence.

This blog of darkness I acknowledge mine

Hello and good morning!  It’s yet another Thursday and, as will come as no surprise, it’s time for me to write my weekly blog post.

I must say that I’m deeply gratified by reader response to last week’s extemporaneous reflections on  how the ideal of perfection can often be the enemy of the good, analogous to falling into the mathematical trap of saying that, since every finite number is equally (and infinitely) far from infinity, there’s no point in trying to reach a greater number than where one is.

Something like that; I put it better last week.

The many “likes” received by last Thursday’s entry stand in stark contrast to my blog post from the previous week.  This is hardly surprising.  I was riding a downturn in my ongoing waveform of dysthymia and depression on the day in question, so I’m afraid it must have been grim reading.  There’s a semi-serious saying in the medical and mental health community that depression is contagious.  Though this is not literally true—one cannot become clinically depressed simply by contact with a sufferer unless one is predisposed—it is certainly the case that spending time with, or receiving communication from, a person with depression can make one feel seriously blue and gloomy.

Depression can be surprisingly convincing in the hands of one who knows it well, particularly if that person is someone whose strengths include the communication of ideas and emotions.  Most people, struggling mightily to hold onto as good an outlook as they can, tend not to rubberneck much at these sorts of mental roadside crashes, at least until they reach the level of true catastrophe.

This is a shame, though, because one of the worst parts of suffering from depression, at least from my point of view, is that it engenders a self-reinforcing cycle of alienation.  One hates oneself; one feels intellectually justified in this attitude; and one feels therefore quite clearly that others would be justified in sharing that hatred, if they were to get too close.  Indeed, one feels positively rude and uncomfortable, even guilty, about even the possibility of subjecting others to one’s presence in any way beyond the absolutely necessary.  Isolating oneself can become a matter of conscience, analogous to what one might do if one had a particularly deadly and highly contagious illness.  It feels natural to think that those who do want to spend time in one’s presence—this number tends to diminish with the passing years, ceteris paribus—are thoroughly misguided, and must be discouraged from their goal.

And of course, other people do tend to avert their eyes from depression and the depressed—even when those eyes otherwise seem irresistibly drawn to every roadside fender-bender and horrible news story.  At least, they avert them unless and until the problem reaches fully catastrophic levels, at which point it can be ignored no longer…and at which point, ironically, there is usually little that can be done.

Some artistic reflections of depression are more palatable than others, of course.  Songs are—in my experience—one of the most tolerable.  Indeed, many of the most beautiful songs are sad, a curious fact noted by minds as widely diverse as Elton John and J.R.R. Tolkien.  My own song, Breaking Me Down, of which I released my “rebuild” on  this site, on Iterations of Zero, and on YouTube last weekend, is about depression.  The fact that it was originally composed, almost in current form, thirty years ago, shows that depression is a gift that keeps on giving, and which can contribute to the spoilage and ruination of a promising life.  It’s not something to be taken lightly; it has a mortality rate as high as many cancers, and its morbidities are vaster and deeper and more insidious than we can readily enumerate.  When seriously contemplated, it is terrifying…not least because it often makes its sufferers literally envy the dead.

If I had the choice of submitting some evildoer to the horrors of the Inquisition or of enacting upon them a chronic, fairly severe depression, it’s hard for me to say which I think would be the worse crime against humanity.

And yet, Hamlet’s soliloquy, Kansas’s Dust in the Wind, Radiohead’s No Surprises, many of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and poems, among innumerable other works, can be enjoyed thoroughly, their beauty embraced, even by those who don’t know the experience of major depression.  Visual depictions seem more problematic, at least in my experience.  Maybe, being primarily visual creatures as we are, the imagery that effectively represents depression strikes just too close to the bone.  It can be technically remarkable and sometimes quite powerful…but it’s hard to call it beautiful.  And it’s hard to look at for very long.

Horror

I drew this picture around the same time that I wrote Breaking Me Down

Maybe words and music are abstract enough and have enough of an “eye of the beholder” effect that they soften the blow, letting people avoid the deep implications of the work by not paying too close attention.  Depressed non-fiction prose on the other hand, like visual artwork, can be too stark and on the nose to be taken in with any enthusiasm.

This is a shame because, as I said before, when someone is suffering from depression, they can feel very much condemned to solitary confinement…and to feel that such is where they belong, by nature and by guilt.  On those rare occasions when they’re able to express themselves—to cry for help, as is said, though the depressed often feel they deserve no assistance—the very nature of their suffering can make them existentially threatening to others’ moods and even their worldviews.  Again, one of the problems with depression, and a source of quips about its contagiousness, is that it can be so horribly convincing.

It’s easy enough to sympathize with those who don’t want to deal with the depressed too directly, or too often.  No one, I think, would willingly, with foreknowledge, choose to endure serious depression for long…not even if the alternative was death.

But we at least have the poetry and the songs, and I encourage you to enjoy them at whatever level you can.  At the very least, it’s wonderful occasionally to “suffer just enough to sing the blues.”  And, of course, it can also be good fun to enjoy a good horror story in a similar vein.  Hopefully, Unanimity will be such a story when it’s finally done.

Darkness can be beautiful, in its own way, as long as one knows that one can turn on the light at any time.  If one cannot, and if no one else can offer, or is offering, illumination, then even an otherwise enticing darkness can become a true horror.

TTFN

Breaking Me Down (rebuilt)

 

(c) 2019 by Robert Elessar

Words and Music by Robert Elessar

Produced and performed by Robert Elessar

I sit alone at home sometimes and want to go berserk
But doing that just never seems to work
The shelves are stacked with books but I don’t feel that I could read
While all around a thousand phantoms lurk

I drink a little wine; I eat a little meat
I wonder why I’m shivering in such infernal heat
I feel a little tired; my head’s a little light
I wish that I could close my eyes and block my inner sight.

If you could see me now, you’d probably wonder where I’ve been
But I stand and I fall
And I listen for your call
While hiding out inside the dragon’s den.

I wander ‘round through my internal night
I travel back and forth throughout the town
But if you ask, I’ll tell you I’m all right
My nervousness is just breaking me down.

I listen to the sounds of everybody having fun
I can’t join in ‘cause I don’t have a gun,
They’re scattering their ashes all along the motorway
Then scampering like rabbits on the run

I bounce off all the walls; I turn out all the lights
I always want to hit someone, but I never get in fights
I feel a bit confused; my thoughts are incomplete
There’s tingling in my fingers and there’s swelling in my feet

If you could hear what I hear you would deafen both your ears
But I can’t, and I know
That no matter where I go
I’m followed by the grinding of my gears.

I stare around in paranoiac fright
While grinning at my heartbreak like a clown
So don’t come in, and don’t turn on the light
It’s just my past mistakes breaking me down

I look at all the colors of the pictures in my mind
They’re all so dark, I might as well be blind
The path laid out ahead of me is so filled up with smoke
I think that I’d prefer to just rewind

I roam around the house; I drive around the town
I don’t know if I’m back and forth or if I’m up and down
I dive into the sea; I look into the sky
I try to understand them, but we can’t see eye to eye

If you could see inside my head, your own head would explode
But I nod, and I grin
At the end where I begin
And I smile, and I wave
When I pass an open grave
And I slump, and I sigh
When we have to say goodbye
I’ll see you at the ending of the road

I wander through the wasteland struck with blight
I make my Hell to wear an earthly crown
I smash all mirrors, I can’t stand the sight
Of everything that is breaking me down.

…or close the blog up with our English dead.

BrokenWall

 

Good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and time for another weekly blog post.

I wish that I had more that was new to share, or at least different from what I usually discuss.  I’m quite afraid that I’m going to bore those who read my blog every week.  Unfortunately, the process of writing—at least as it refers to long novels and/or to songs written and performed individually in snatches of very limited spare time—is a long one, and it doesn’t change noticeably from day to day or even from week to week.

Unanimity is proceeding well.  I’m nicely into the third editing run-through, but with much farther to go, and with much more trimming to do before I reach my goal.  Similarly, I’ve been working (intermittently) on the remix and re-recording of Breaking Me Down, very much a personal vanity project…which I suppose could also be said of any novel as well.  The music will surely be ready for release long before the book, but then again, it’s a seven-minute song compared to a seven hundred plus pages long novel, so it’s not too surprising that it should take less time, even considering the different levels of my expertise in the two fields.

On other matters, well…there’s not much to say that seems worth sharing, but I’ll share some of it anyway.  I continue to be unable to rouse myself to get involved in social media—or social anything, for that matter.  I really don’t have the capacity to socialize at all outside of work, and I do precious little of it during work.  You are, at this moment, experiencing the most social thing I do in any given week, at least for the last several months.*  How lucky for you!  Despite ongoing treatment for dysthymia/depression, I’m afraid that the reality of both traditional and newfangled media is just too depressing in and of itself for me to survive.

Of course, avoiding them doesn’t particularly seem to help my problem, either, and I can’t blame social and other media too much; the issue seems very much to be on my end of the keyboard and/or smartphone.  After all, I’ve lately been unable to enjoy even good music.  This morning I started listening to my most reliable Spotify playlist, comprised of my favorite songs by Radiohead, Pink Floyd and the Beatles, and I quickly got bored to the point of disgust and just shut it off.

The Beatles, for crying out loud!

And don’t even get me started on the fact that when I even contemplate reading any of the Harry Potter books, or even The Lord of the Rings, I’m filled with ennui bordering on physical revulsion.

There are well over two hundred books in my personal Kindle library, ranging from Physics, Philosophy, Biology, Neuroscience, Behavioral Psychology, and History to classic literature, science fiction and fantasy, all the way up to modern light novels.  It’s hardly an unweeded garden that grows to seed; it’s a stunningly beautiful garden by its very nature.  But right now, it doesn’t catch my interest any more than would a patch of garbage-strewn mud.  I find myself (somewhat ironically) resonating, as I often do, to a line from the Pink Floyd song, Nobody Home:  “I’ve got thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from.”

Only thirteen channels of shit?  If only he’d known how many channels of shit are available for us to swim in nowadays.  Don’t tear down that wall too quickly, Pink.  There are real walls being contemplated that are far more pathetic and disappointing than anything that goes on behind yours.

I just had an interesting and coincidental personal revelation:  I was considering using a particular line from early in “Hamlet” for the title to this week’s blog, but I suspected that I’d already used it for that purpose.  So, I checked and discovered that, not only had I indeed used it previously, but I had done so on August 23rd of 2018, one day shy of a year ago.  That’s weird.

I’m not aware of any particular reason why late August should trigger such specific associations for me.  It’s not as though I have “end-of-summer blues”.  I live in south Florida, for crying out loud; the end of summer is when the weather gets more pleasant.  And it’s been many years since I needed to feel despondent about an upcoming academic term.**

Now that I think about it, though, this isn’t the first time since last August that I’ve considered re-using that line in the title of a blog and had to go back to catch myself.  It’s one of the most well-known of Shakespearean quotes, trailing behind only that most famous soliloquy from “Hamlet”, a few from “Macbeth”, and perhaps some smatterings from “Romeo and Juliet”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and maybe “Richard III”.  Oh, well, I’ll just go (or will have gone, really), with a portion of a quote from “Henry V”, instead.

Ironically, and regrettably, I can find no interest in actually reading any of the aforementioned plays.

Nor heaven nor earth have been at peace this morning, it seems.

TTFN


*No, let’s be honest; it’s years, veering towards decades.

**And, in all honesty, I never once dreaded the coming of a school year, whether primary, secondary, university, or professional school.  It’s always been something to which I looked forward eagerly.