Cheer up? Fuck off.
I am a depressive. I have Clinical Depression. I’m not cool enough to be bi-polar. Those bi-polar bastards at least have their manic times when they are euphoric… admittedly they do crazy shit when they’re manic, but at least it makes for some good anecdotes. The only crazy shit that I do is boring to report: I sat alone, doing nothing, for hours! Ha! I know right?! How mental am I?
Quite mental, according to health professionals. I’ve had a diagnosis of Clinical Depression and another of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. How dare they?! How dare they suggest that I, a god amongst mortals, am a narcissist? I nearly got a diagnosis for Aspergers, but missed out by a whisker. My mother would have been pleased with Aspergers, Chris Packham has Aspergers and she loves Chris Packham. I don’t have Aspergers, the reason I don’t get on with people is that I’m filled with hatred and disgust.
I’ve tried therapy and I’ve tried pills. I found therapy annoying. My therapist always seemed bored. Plus, if I want therapy, it’s cheaper to just write “And how does that make you feel? Why do you think you feel like that?” on a bit of paper and read it over and fucking over. Pills were more fun. They gave me night-sweats (so bad I had to sleep on a towel); nightmares; lowered libido; increased libido; anxiety and, finally, indigestion. I knocked them on the head.
Essentially, I am always depressed, it’s just a matter of degrees. At my absolute best I’m ‘a bit thoughtful’. This means that, even when I’m having fun, I’m not quite ‘in the moment’. I can be on a rollercoaster or laughing at a comedian and there’s still a small part of me that’s, at best, watching dispassionately and waiting for the fun to stop. At my worst, I’m suicidal or making other people feel suicidal if I talk to them. Cheering up just isn’t possible, not fundamentally. And I’ll tell yer for why…
There is no God. There is no soul. Free will is an illusion. The universe is a collection of physical properties. These physical properties can interact to cause extremely complex phenomena. Human beings are remarkably complex, but ultimately we are simply the interactions of physical laws. Take out a small sliver of my brain and I would lose all emotions or all memory or all sense of ‘self’. If you don’t believe me, go away and read “The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” by Oliver Sacks. It studies the brain and what happens when brains are injured or ill. Guess what? You ARE your body and brain. Cut out the right bits and you would lose that ‘soul’ or your ability to remember or your capacity for love.
So. Here we are with our brains and bodies. Everything about us is governed by physical laws. You know that sense of free will that you have? It’s generated by your brain. When you appear to choose something, it’s because the matter and energy of your brain interacted in a certain way. Think of a country. Quick. What did you think of? Don’t tell me, I don’t give a fuck, I just want to prove a point. The first country you though of sprang into your brain unbidden. Unconscious interactions of biological components spat out a piece of data for you. The majority of thinking happens like this: bits of brain that you don’t even actively think about are just getting on with generating the illusion of ‘you’ and ‘choice’.
How about conscious choices? Surely those are ‘free’? You are given time to weigh up a couple of options? Should you do this or that? Eventually you choose to do that. Why would anyone chose that, you monster?! The choices you made consciously were, of course, determined by thousands of factors: your cultural background, your mood, your genetics, your education. You chose to become vegetarian? Oh well done you. You chose to shoplift some Quorn? Oh naughty you. But the choices you made were not determined by you alone, were they? All those factors that created you played a part. Educate a child to believe that stealing from supermarkets is ok because supermarkets are capitalist oppressors and the child will believe that. Catch the child stealing, re-educate the child through punishment and indoctrination that stealing is wrong. The child will believe that instead. The fact is, most of our beliefs and ideologies are determined externally.
Everything is determined. This philosophy is called Determinism. Everything is causal, everything has something before it and something after it. Nothing can break the chain of causes. You think you have ‘freedom’ within this system, but even your choices are predetermined, it’s just that you aren’t aware of all the factors that determine those choices.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps we do have souls that somehow transcend physical laws. If so, how do they make THEIR choices? Who made them choose well or badly? Is that determined by God or something else? Are some souls created to be bad? Theology just falls apart. Observation of the facts suggests that determinism is real and free will is an illusion.
I know, I know, I’ve rambled. This is the foundation of my depression, though. There is no authenticity to my experience of ‘self’ or ‘will’. I’m like an ant sitting on a leaf, floating down a river. Each time my leaf moves left or right, I think it’s because I wanted that. I’ll even claim that I’m in complete control of my leaf. The truth is, I’m heading for the waterfall and I don’t want to admit it to myself. “Whee! Look at me! I’m going fast!”
I experience love and happiness. I have fun from time to time. I just feel like a smartarse kid who knows how the magic tricks are done. I can feel excited when the rabbit comes out of the hat, but I know it’s not magic.
I’m an ungrateful bastard, too. I’m white, middle-class, middle-aged and male. Have you tried this? It’s fucking excellent. I live in Britain and I’m currently unlikely to die in a conflict. I should be on top of the world. I have every advantage. I even have a loving family, a couple of genuine friends and I’m tall. TALL!
I can’t choose to believe differently. I try religion, I try philosophy, I try fun. They take hold for a while, but you can’t force yourself to believe… or I can’t. It must be great to be optimistic and to think that life has meaning. For me, though, the facts just aren’t there to support those ideas. I’m a meaningless collection of physical properties that gives rise to a personality. My personality is determined by genetics and external stimuli. I can create narratives that explain my behaviour and my emotions, but I’m just writing stories as much as the people who talk about souls.
The best I can do is be an observer of my existence. I’m very fortunate that it’s a bourgeois existence that gives me time for this kind of self-indulgent self-analysis. Maybe I’d have been happier as a stone age hunter-gatherer or a medieval peasant. Who can say? As it is, this collection of atoms generates me and I’m stuck with it.
I’ll just choose to cheer up, that’s the sensible thing.
CHEER THE FUCK UP, PEOPLE!