10 February, 2012 § 6 Comments
I’m not religious or, for that matter, particularly spiritual. If pressed on my beliefs I will say I’m an agnostic or a theist. But I don’t really think beliefs matter very much. In terms of practice, I attempt to actively practice kindness and to not become involved with evil, to the point where that’s possible (my game Drifter’s Escape can be seen as an exercise in how to relate to evil). But ultimately I don’t have a serious practice. In terms of community, I try to seek out moral intellectuals, but I don’t have a serious community.
What I do have is faith. I’m not sure whether it’s the same sort of faith that is felt and expressed by the religious, but I can’t really think of any other word for it. I have faith because, as a depressive, my options are that or die.
Depression is a rough disease. The first thing that it does is it sweeps away any notions you have of the supremacy of the rational, conscious mind. Depression strips these illusions: willpower, the self, reason, and decision making. When you’re depressed you know, at a fundamental level, how terrible living is and you know, at the same level, that it will never get better. When I talk about “fundamental level” I mean “like how you know how to breathe, or how to keep your heart beating.” Depression exists at that level of gut instinct that you just cannot cognitively override and cannot say no to.
Consequently, there are places, in depression, where suicide seems very, very rational and completely natural. I’ve been there, although I’m not now, thanks. How can you survive this?
One means is by establishing rational, conscious safeguards (“If I start feeling suicidal I will call my friend X”) which is good and I strongly encourage anyone with clinical depression to do. But that’s … treating the symptoms at best. It doesn’t really provide any sense of comfort, and it doesn’t really make your day-to-day life less dismal.
For me, and I think not only for me, there is something else that lets me survive, which I am realizing is faith. Not faith in a higher power, but faith that things can get better, even though every fiber of your being tells you that this is wrong, that clearly things will not get better, I find myself able to hold in blessed cognitive dissonance the idea that things will get better. I don’t know how. There’s no rational path from here to there. They just will, somehow.
This makes no sense. It’s irrational to believe it, particularly when one has treatment resistant or untreated depression. But it’s not really about belief, in fact, often I don’t believe it. It’s some other underlying cognitive force.
Too often, we try to reduce faith to beliefs, and judge beliefs based on some sort of binary truth value. If you have the luxury* of living entirely in your conscious mind, and entirely within a particular American culture of the self, this can seem to be the case. But the options to me, as someone who is chronically depressed, are not that. I can be rational — give in to my knowing that things are terrible and will always be, and die, or I can have faith, and live.
Religious people? Is it anything like this, for you?
* In all honest, I would say that this is as much a tragedy as a luxury. But I have self-bias, of course.
4 February, 2012 § Leave a comment
I haven’t updated in a while — this is the hazard of blogging while depressed. I hope you will all stick with me.
I wanted to link to another project I’ve done in the mean time, the Hourly Game Day project. This sort of creative outpouring is fundamentally necessary to my sanity, and I’d encourage anyone who’s grappling with difficult emotional issues to create, not in terms of looking for a polished finished project, but as a means of self-expression, self-examination, and purging the self of all of its cruft and doubt.
Don’t make something good, make something now.
13 January, 2012 § 2 Comments
I want this blog to be a space where it is safe to be wrong.
Wrongness is, I think, undervalued a lot culturally, particularly in the internet culture, particularly on the blogging world, which is to say the world of argumentative individualistic writing. In this world, the goal of any particular argument, interaction, etc, is to be the one who’s right, and “winning” that rightness comes at all costs.
This is sad to me. This is sad to me because the personal value I get out of reading argumentative, individualistic writing is pretty much at a disjoint from its truth value. If all I ever wanted to read was correct things, I could easily go for the low hanging fruit of reading about, say, basic mathematics or formalistic logic. But I don’t. I seek out writing about politics, gender, race, culture, society, art, game design, linguistics, science, and so on, places where wrongness isn’t just likely, it’s basically assured. Why is this?
Well, clearly, it’s because I get some value from wrong arguments. In particular, personally, I would rather read an argument which is wrong, but makes me re-evaluate my life and world view, than an argument that is correct, but mostly reconfirms my existing prejudices. I had a recent talk with a room-mate about this, with respect to Andrea Dworkin (link to an excellent interview by Michael Moorcock), whose writing I really adore. Dworkin was wrong about a lot of stuff, including some of the critical issues of her day. But she was wrong in a way that leads a reader to re-assessing their relationship to sex, gender, society and self. I don’t agree with Dworkin’s conclusions (sometimes) but I’m a better person for having read her writing. This is clearly a superior experience, as a reader, than — for instance — wikipedia’s article about adhesive tape, which is more factually correct.
In this space, I’d like to pursue the kind of writing that makes people re-evaluate their own lives and their own relationships and thoughts, whether that is right or wrong in terms of trivial content. In this regard, I’d really like to have a space where being wrong doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, and it doesn’t even necessarily mean that you have the worse of the argument. It means, simply, that you are wrong, and no further.
This is the ideal. I don’t even know how to start to approach it yet, and I imagine that this is going to be a work in process. Anyone reading: I would welcome your thoughts.