Tag Archives: depression

Thoughts on how it all went wrong…

There once was a time when a person could be unhappy.  If they took the wrong turn in the road, or, made some bad choices it would usually lead to a life that did not produce happiness in sufficient quantities for them to feel good about themselves and the life they were living.  They ended up “unhappy” as a result, at least in part, of choices that they themselves had made.

Today, thanks to a partnership between pharmaceutical manufacturers, health care practitioners, and consumers, unhappiness has gone the way of smallpox.   It no longer exists in nature.   Unhappiness was conquered by science when it was finally recognized for what it really was… a disease.  No longer must sufferers of what used to be called unhappiness carry the blame for any of their own suffering.   As it turns out what human beings used to call unhappiness was really a condition that can only be cured by doctors.  We call it “depression” today, and it is caused by improper chemicals in your brain that, in more cases than not, are a result of genetic factors far beyond your control.

I submit to my gentle readers that, in todays world, this is a VERY GOOD thing to know.   Honestly, it sucked being responsible for our own happiness.  To be unhappy meant we were failures at life.  It meant that we ourselves recognized that we were not capable of playing our part effectively, and competently, in our consumer culture.  Quite frankly it was nothing less than wonderful to learn that we were off the hook .   It wasn’t our fault after all.

In a sense this knowledge and the new found scientific ability to alter our consciousness chemically has immunized us to the inherent dangers of consumer culture.  The dangerous discontent, generated by advertising, that is the basic driving force and operating principle of consumer capitalism can, thankfully, be rendered harmless with the two edged sword of education and pharmaceuticals.  Education tells us that hope springs eternal.  All of us are “special”.  Even the poorest of the poor can win fame and happiness through the purchase of lottery tickets and even the abysmally ignorant can become sports heros, or, outrageously wealthy media phenomena.    Who, with eyes to see and ears to hear and a functioning TV can ever doubt this?  Who does not know that happiness rests just over the horizon awaiting our arrival?

Today there is simply no need to be a slave to any faulty mix of brain chemicals our genes may have dealt us.  There is no need to feel “bad” about anything in a culture where anything is possible and, thanks to modern science, purchasable.

Discontent…  of course must remain alive in its purest sense because it is what keeps the American Dream going.  Unless we all WANT things we do not yet have there can be no perpetual progress, no jobs producing things, no creation of wealth, no viable economy.     If one is not discontent… we are forced to conclude one is simply not paying attention.

Happy… but, discontent is what we are looking for, and at just the proper mix.  We must guard ourselves never to admit to being unhappy, to admit that would be to announce to the world that we were a loser.   The stench of unhappiness on a person is today as a bell on a leper once was.  UNCLEAN!

Proper mental hygiene demands that we want the things that we do not have.  Discontent at not having important things to have, must, if we are normal,  drive us to work harder, longer and with more ingenuity.  Desiring and acquiring,… to live to desire and acquire again another day are the kind of meat machines we are.  If one day we find that we are not humming along nicely, sporting a happy face and acquiring sufficient things, with decent cultural value… we should consult a physician.  The chemicals in our head are almost certainly out of whack, scientifically speaking, and the proper adjustments need to be made.  Failure to do so means we will become, if we have not already become… depressed.

That’s how it works.  Be careful.  Work hard.  Don’t fuck around.  If everything goes to shit in spite of your best efforts, don’t worry about it because it isn’t your fault anyway.


Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.

( As the days get darker and shorter Mrs. N. finds herself taking great joy in being unpleasant to the annoying who, at this festive time of year, seem to circulate more abundantly among us…  )



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What to tell kids.

Do you ever think about this?  Do you ever wonder what kids have a right to know and if anyone is at all interested in seeing to it that they are properly informed?

I find myself thinking about this a lot lately.  I’m troubled by my inability to come up with anything helpful in the way of advice for those just beginning their journey on life’s path.  The wisdom that is supposed to come with age and experience, when I look for it, isn’t there.   It’s no wonder really.  Never having quite figured out what people are for, myself, puts me in no position to offer advice on anything but short term projects.  How to tie a proper Windsor knot, treat a bag-bug infestation on an ornamental maple… things like that I can do.  That is all that was given me in my time, really.  Simple formulas for doing right like… Love my country and hate communists… follow orders, fear god and don’t get in trouble with the law.  Simple stuff to understand if you didn’t think about it too deeply and, if I did those things, and worked hard at something, everything would work out for the best and things would just keep getting better and better for everybody.

What a crock of shit that turned out to be.

“Better dead than Red” is what they taught us.  They wanted us to know that the communists were evil because they didn’t believe in god.  The communists wanted to take over America so that they could force everybody in America not to believe in god  too is what they told us.  When we were children those in authority encouraged us to think that we would be better off dead than alive, if being alive meant not believing in god any more.  To prove that point of view, and that they meant business, our government constructed thousands of atomic bombs capable of utterly destroying the only planet we have to live on rather than run the risk of letting communists take over America.  We Americans first tested two of those atomic bombs, before I was even born, on people called “Japs” 68 years ago this past week.  They worked swell.

It was all something they called M. A. D.   [M]utually [A]ssured [D]estruction.  It was really just another way of saying… Better dead than Red.

It never occurred to us how belief in a wonderful afterlife was somewhat inconsistent with the highest degree of desire for physical survival in this life.  How lucky we were to have Marxists for enemies.  Not believing in wonderful afterlives Marxists were never really likely to see any advantages at all in pressing the BIG BUTTON to start a nuclear war.  Marxists were not particularly keen on the prospects of becoming dead.  Looking back at those days… we were the ones to worry about.

Looking back a little closer at those days, and the days after, and, right up to this minute, it was never about anything but selfishness and animal-like pack rat greed here in America.  Those with power hated communists because communists would take away their stuff.  Communists would, at least in theory, eliminate both poverty and wealth.  What could possibly be worse for a wealthy person than that?

None of that has changed.  The primary concern of people with wealth and power is getting more and never losing what they have to people who have less.  “Damn the depression, starvation, misery and mayhem… full speed ahead!”  

So, what do we tell the kids?

When a young person asks you for advice what can you tell them that doesn’t make you feel kind of dirty inside?

I guess you could tell them about how much God loves them… but, you would have to hold your nose.

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.


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Dead a long time

Ain’t it hard when you discover that (he, she, or, it) isn’t really where it’s at?

I read yesterday that half the people in America couldn’t come up with $2000 unless they borrowed it.

In 1975 the average size of an American home was about 1500 square feet and the average cost of a new car was about $6000.  Today the average size of a new home is 2500 square feet and a car costs about $31,000.  Wages during that 38 year span have not risen at all if you factor in inflation.

As of today it is estimated that America spends approximately half a trillion dollars a year treating depression.

Feeling like crap and having little or no hope for the future appears to be the biggest growth industry in America.

Cicero said that all a person really needs is a garden and a library.  Somehow, people got the idea that to make things even better planting and harvesting must increase in efficiency until the labor of gardening wasn’t at all fun any more.   But it was progress and progress has to be good.   Our friend John Schumaker writes… “The presence of the single ruling motivation destroys all ability to concentrate on anything else.”  The very process of believing precludes acknowledgement of contrary information.   What we believe, on borrowed opinion, is that happiness is to be found “out there”.   We are consumers of products, images, symbols, icons and manufactured reality itself.   Lacking fundamental knowledge and understanding… an inward journey is impossible.  There is simply nowhere to go.

Bertrand Russell said… “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth… more than ruin, more even than death.”

I think he was right.

I think America has reached the point where just thinking about the mess we have made of the world is toxic.   We must think of other things and divert ourselves from the obvious.  We must inflate denial like a big balloon… BIGGER and BIGGER and BIGGER!  We must twist our faces up into that look one gets when one knows the balloon is about to burst … and keep them twisted up permanently if we are to be in keeping with what passes for American culture.

…Or, we can turn our backs on it, as best we can, and strike off on our own.

Whenever I used to ask my grandmother’s advice on something risky, or, out of the ordinary she would always say… “You know… you are going to be dead a LONG time.”

It’s very wet in Dixie

The flowers are magnificent.

My maters got the early blight, but, the string beans keep-a-coming.

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.




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Standing Stones

“If half of China’s population starts consuming, growth is inevitable,” said Li Xiangyang, vice director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, part of a government research institute. “Right now they are living in rural areas where they do not consume.”

...BEIJING — China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years —  [From this mornings NY TIMES]…

You really have to wonder about two things when it comes to the Chinese.  [1].. How, in spite of so many obstacles, they managed to come so far so fast?  [2].. If all it ends up accomplishing is entitling the Chinese people to the same level of existential displeasure hyper-consumerism and conformist consumption have produced in America…. What the fuck was the point?

Mrs. N. is scratching her head raw over this business.  She is asking herself how they can be so incredibly good at so many things, have such a rich philosophical history, and STILL entirely miss the punch line of the joke that modern consumer culture has turned out to be?  Miss the levels of depression, meaninglessness and unhappiness that stalk the dark corners of what life in America’s consumer utopia has turned out to be for so many.  Yes, there is something profoundly disappointing going on with my species.  Our treasured social and economic systems are, for the most part, deeply pathological.  In spite of this… our absurd model remains the template for more of the same.

Maybe you are wondering why Mrs. N. is going on and on about the Chinese when the title of this little exercise is “Standing Stones”?  The reason is this…  After reading the article about the Chinese in the TIMES this morning I took a walk out back around the gardens.  The standing stone (Mrs. N. has ALWAYS been about the business of standing up stones) that you see in the picture reminded me of the lovely summer day I spent, 42 years ago, climbing around the standing stones in Wiltshire, England known as Stonehenge.  They were open to the public then and climbing around them like a monkey was perfectly acceptable.  People are much ruder today and they are fenced off, but, I digress.

Books on the subject of Stonehenge will tell you that nobody really knows “why” it was built.  There are many different theories.  Some historians claim that it was a temple, or, an observatory, or, a place to cremate the dead.  They all agree that it was constructed over 5000 years ago in many phases over many lifetimes.

Having stood on the sight admiring Stonehenge, and having spent many days and much effort standing up stones of all sizes myself, in gardens here and there, Mrs. N. can tell you with certainty what it was all about.  It was about the feeling deep in the bones a human gets from observing the glorious results of their physical labor.  It was about the bonds that form between humans dedicated to completing an apparently impossible physical task.  Building places like Stonehenge, terracing mountainsides into magnificent rice paddies and building beautiful stone walls out of the stones farmers remove, one by one from the fields they plant, are all examples of what it really means to be human.  It was about satisfaction.  It was about REAL accomplishment.  It was not about the bullshit work, the acquisition of more and more shiny pieces consumer crap, that took the place of REAL accomplishment and REAL satisfaction.  Building hard, even impossible things,  worked and promoted human sanity as surely as our culture now produces human dissatisfaction and insanity.  It was as natural to stand up huge stones for the shear existential joy of it as it is unnatural to spend one’s afternoons in gyms, lifting weights and riding bicycles going nowhere in an effort to look like you just came off 5 years on a Georgia chain gang…. in spite of the fact that you pay a man to cut your lawn and a woman to clean your house.

This is America’s idea of Stonehenge.  A tourist attraction made out of Styrofoam.  It’s not far from my house as the crow flies.  Many fat Americans go there to have their picture taken.  5000 years from now it will not be there.  At least that is something to be thankful for.  Now, all we need is something to be thankful to.

Kiss, kiss

Mrs. N.




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The Running Away

I can remember once telling my mother that I was going to run away.  I was a little boy.  I can’t remember what earth shattering problem lead me to threaten my mother with abandonment like that, but, I will always remember what she said back.

I'm out-a-here!

“Let me go get the suitcase and I will help you pack.”

Not Happy

Needless to say this was not the response I was hoping for.  The lesson was learned.  Running away from problems was not an option for me.

That was a long time ago.  My mother has been gone over 30 years and my 44th wedding anniversary is coming up next week.  12/12/12 is the big day.  Forty-four years is a wicked long time to be married to the same person without running away.  The fact that we are together practically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is enough to make many people ask us… “How the hell do you do that?”  We don’t know.  My theory is that over the years and being together almost 24/7 we have somehow melded together into one individual, with two bodies.  Perhaps the only reason none of us has run away is we can’t.  You can’t run away from yourself and, perhaps, that is why so many marriages fail these days.  Unlike in times past, married couples spend so little time together today.  Perhaps, just not enough to form the “melding” of personalities that makes it all work out.  I don’t know, but, I do know this…  As I (we) get older we are less and less interested in and tolerant of other people.  They piss us off more frequently than they ever did.   Me more than her.

I remember my wife’s grandfather.  He was once Justice of the Peace in Hoboken, New Jersey.  He didn’t have a tooth in his head when I met him.  He was so afraid of dentists that he had, one by one, pulled them all out himself with pliers over the years as they went bad.  He hated Ed Sullivan.  He called Ed Sullivan a “God Damn Jew”, but, he NEVER missed “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday nights.  He would sit in his chair chewing peanuts with his rock-hard gums and say, “Listen to that Jew“.   When I was dating my not-yet-then wife he would always ask me to come out to the garage to look at something or other.  That was code.  What he wanted was to bum cigarettes.  In return for a few cigarettes he would always pour me a glass of sherry, out in the garage. To this day I can’t taste sherry without thinking of him.  He had told his wife that he quit smoking and for years she pretended that she didn’t know he bummed cigarettes off all his three granddaughter’s boyfriends.

My wife’s grandparents were married for 62 years when her grandmother died.  She died a few months before Thanksgiving.  The whole extended family got together for Thanksgiving that year at my wife’s sister’s house.  We all tried to cheer Grandpa up as best we could, but, he only got more and more pissed off at the lot of us.  My wife’s sister’s husband had a business partner who was Mexican.   I remember that Grandpa asked if “That God Damned Mexican” was going to be here again this year.  I can remember laughing my ass off at that because it was just “so” Grandpa.

The point of this tale is this:   When my sister-in-law brought a nice plate of turkey and trimmings to Grandpa I was sitting close enough to hear what he said.  He said….  “You people don’t get it, do you?  I don’t want any food.  I just want out of here.”

None of us understood that at the time.  There was some talk of taking him to the doctor for his “depression”.  He was dead before Christmas.

I understand it now.  I understand why when people are married for a long time and one of them dies the other wants to run away.  You can call it depression, but, I call it being siamese twins who share a heart and realizing, one day, that half your body, the part with the heart, is now gone.  It seems less not “wanting” to go on…  than being not “capable” of going on.   There should be another name for that than depression.  It cheapens the whole thing… doesn’t do it justice somehow.

What I remember most about Grandpa is that, it seemed, he hated everybody.  So much for hate and anger shortening your life.  What I admired most about the old crank was his outstanding gardening ability.  To this day I have never seen flowers grow as tall and look as healthy as they did in Grandpa’s yard.  I have tried all my adult life to raise flowers like Grandpa did.

This weekend my wife will make home made pizza from her Grandmother’s Sicilian recipe.  It’s the best pizza I have ever eaten and I can eat me some pizza. We will sit on the couch on Sunday night, eat pizza, and I will bitch about somebody, or, something.

We will laugh like hell to ourselves.



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