I wanted to write today, but I had no specific subject in mind, so I figured I’d just start typing and see what came out. Of course, I write nearly every day, no matter what. Every work morning, I get up a few hours earlier than I need to, and I use the extra time to write…always at least a page, though usually more. Most days, I write fiction, but though fiction cannot help but be an expression of its author’s character, it’s not quite the same as more directly sharing one’s thoughts.
One of the main uses to which I put this blog, “Iterations of Zero”, is precisely that: to share my thoughts on various issues—scientific, psychological, personal, social, whatever. Often, these thoughts are triggered by current events, and perhaps even more specifically, by people’s reactions to those events on social media, such as Facebook.
Facebook has been getting more and more depressing to me over time, though. I mean, when I first got on it, it was mainly a way to reconnect with people I’d known back when I was alive, and it’s still good for that. It has been good for that, anyway. Unfortunately, it seems to distill the world’s stupidity in ways that are so overwhelmingly depressing that it’s all but impossible to bear. Maybe it doesn’t cause this phenomenon, maybe it just brings it to the fore, allowing people to say in the hearing of the billion or so Facebook users what they would only ordinarily have said when drunk at a bar.
Modern technology makes it all too easy to create a Facebook “meme” and/or web-based “article” about almost any subject one might wish to undertake, including photos—which can easily be manipulated and adjusted to suit the needs of any would-be commenter—without having to go to the trouble of gathering evidence or making cogent arguments, and to share links and memes that other people—people who had seemed reasonably intelligent—will “like” and “share” in turn.
The quality of popular entertainment on television and in other media has always been hit or miss, but with the rise of for-profit news stations and reality TV, and then of social media, the actual level of intellectual discourse seems to have sought out, and located, the lowest common denominator. Maybe it’s always been this way, and I just didn’t notice it until I’d lived long enough. Maybe it really is getting worse.
So, I’ve been getting on Facebook less and less often. I probably will never abandon it completely, since it’s the main venue through which I communicate with my daughter, and I don’t want to lose that. But even such communication has its poignancy, its own bittersweet flavor. I only connect with my daughter through Facebook (and my son, not at all); I only connect or pseudo-connect with anyone through social media, now. But in all honesty, except for my daughter, there is no deep connection. My social awkwardness is such that even interacting on Facebook, via direct messages or comments, makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I care, and I don’t know why that caring makes it so much harder for me to do. I just know that I feel utterly disconnected from the world on anything but the most superficial level. I’ve no common ground with anyone at work. I’ve no connection with any of my old friends; our lives are utterly separate and disparate. There’s no one to whom I feel I can actually talk, though I’ve become quite good, as a matter of habit, at pretending to be in a good mood when speaking to family and the few others with whom I interact.
I’m at a loss. I mean, I am writing my fiction and all. I finished the first draft of Unanimity, a really long novel, at the end of January. I wrote the first draft of a short story right after, and I’m now working on what was a random, walk-in short story that will likely become a novella. But I doubt the world would be measurably poorer if neither these, nor any of my other works, were ever read by anyone again for all eternity.
I’m not even sure if I should post what I’ve written here. It is, fundamentally, just an expression of depression and loneliness, and I think I’ve done enough of that, both here and on Facebook, without any sign of useful results. Maybe I’m just too cryptic. I’ve never been very good at traditional “cries for help”. The one time I called a “suicide prevention” hotline, I got picked up by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies, who handcuffed me—injuring a nerve in my wrist—and brought me to a shit-hole of a mental health emergency place, from which I was released just a day or so later. And while I was in jail I got put in a “suicide watch” cell with no mattress, no blankets, just a metal cot-frame (with sharp corners, ironically enough) and a thin, flimsy paper gown that fell apart within an hour or so. These aren’t experiences I long to repeat.
Anyway, everyone to whom I might reach out is busy with their own lives; they have enough problems. I have neither right nor merit to infringe upon their limited supplies of time and energy. Maybe writing this blog is the best answer available to me, frail and limited though its use may be.
I considered titling this post with a line from a Beatles song: “And now my life has changed in oh so many ways.” But the next line of that song is “My independence seems to vanish in the haze,” whereas mine is, if anything, more complete than ever before, and I’m leery of trying to remedy that. I used to be able really to talk with my ex-wife (before she was “ex”) about nearly anything, but that didn’t turn out so well in the end. I think that I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter my fundamental disagreement with the poetic claim that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I know how I felt when I had never loved at all, and I know how it feels to have loved and lost. I prefer the former.
That’s not saying very much, though. I’d rather receive a hundred lashes than two hundred, but I’d prefer not to have either, thank you very much. The people I’ve most loved in my life have uniformly found me unpleasant to be around (probably the people I don’t love would concur) and that’s a pain I could stand to avoid. I frankly don’t even like to be around myself…quite the contrary.
I do wish I didn’t feel so depressed so much of the time (I also wish for world peace, and to eat all the junk food I want without getting fat, while I’m at it). I’ve been treated medically and psychologically for depression in the past, but never with very satisfying results. I even reached out to a former therapist of mine not long ago for a recommendation of someone to see near me. The recommendation was given, but I never contacted the person recommended. The prospect of trying to open up to someone new is too depressing in and of itself.
Also, I have very limited spare time, and I want to use what I have on writing, mainly my fiction. My fiction is better than my non-fiction, though even it tends to be pretty dark. Reading my work isn’t something that can readily be predicted to uplift anyone; I apologize for that. I am who I am, and I write what I must, and I cannot be anyone else or write anything else.
Maybe I’m just tired. I’ve been trudging along for ages through barren terrain, and I’ve been doing it by myself for nearly the last third of the journey. I have no Fellowship, no band of companion gunslingers to accompany me on my trek to the Dark Tower. Maybe no one ever does. In a certain sense, we are all alone in our thoughts and minds. But in another sense, humans really do have a sense of empathy and connection, we have mirror neurons and “theory of mind”, among other things, which make our relations with our fellow tribespeople visceral and profound, as real and biologically salient as the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Some of us, though, appear—by nature, by choice, by circumstance, whatever—to belong to tribes of one. I don’t know how many such uni-tribes there are, but if one cannot even find people with whom one feels kinship even on the over-a-billion-people venue of Facebook, it’s hard to see where one is going to find them.
Maybe we need to wait for AI’s or extraterrestrials to arrive. Or perhaps that’s too grandiose and self-congratulatory, as are my own frequent thoughts—bolstered by some science—that people with depression are fundamentally poor at being able to fool themselves about the nature of reality in order to make themselves feel better. This is “humbloid” speech, really; we say we are poor at fooling ourselves as though we are being self-critical, when actually it’s a kind of bragging.
Then again, I would dearly like to be able to maintain a positive attitude—not at the expense of fooling myself about reality, but simply by not letting it bother me; perhaps by embracing despair and depression and coming out the other side. I don’t know if that’s possible. If it is possible, I don’t know if I have the skill or endurance to achieve it. It’s hard to be optimistic.
Honestly, what I sometimes wish most of all is that I were not saddled by nature with the irritating survival drive that gets in the way of any possible rest, or at least of oblivion. But that stupid, stubborn, mindless urge is fundamental, as nature has required it to be, for good, sound biological reasons. This machine was built to survive.
What a stupid idea.
I think after all I’ll title this blog entry with a line from a different Beatles song, one that much more clearly expresses my sensibilities than “Help” does. John wrote this one a few years later in his career. He never did live to be as old as I am now. I, on the other hand, am ancient—subjectively at least—and that agedness has effects on me similar to what it had on Vermithrax Pejorative in Dragonslayer.
Whataya gonna do?