January 04, 2019

It's the End of the World As We Know It...

I recall on Jerry's blog he talked about how he was going into a funk, the “black dog” of depression and anxiety, when his stepdaughter called and told him she wanted to play a musical instrument and asked if he had one. He had indeed played trombone in school and so spent the next couple hours looking for it all over the house with her, and then he taught her the basics of trombone playing.  He said he was lifted out of his depression and it had changed his outlook for awhile.

And just today I heard a podcast with the author of “Tribe”, Sebastian Junger, who said:
“Admissions to psych wards went down during the WWII blitz of London and back up when it stopped.  If you give people an urgent task it gives them the opportunity to stop thinking about themselves, and when you do that you cut short this awful feedback loop of something that’s called ‘anxious rumination’.  If you give troubled folks enough space to think too much and they think themselves into a circle and get more and more anxious and depressed.  A crisis pops them back into the present moment, a sort of zen idea to be in the present moment, right here right now and they can forget about their personal troubles. One British official said in amazement, ‘We have the chronic neurotics of peacetime driving ambulances.’”
Junger said that humans are evolved to deal with trauma, that there’s been traumatic events for all of our history (in the past much more so) and that if survivors of traumatic events didn’t gather food the next day there would be no human race eventually.  He said that what’s different now is that we experience our trauma in an isolated environment. A rat tortured by a cat for awhile and left by itself will develop ongoing symptoms of trauma.  A rat tortured by a cat but immediately reintegrated into the rat community will be indistinguishable from the other rats within a week.

People need to be needed he says.  This seems to explain the inexplicable, such as why my grandmother was aggrieved by no longer being able to cook for live-at-home son Mark.  I'd thought that a great boon to her.

I’m unsure if it’s just a natural condition of aging, that one feels that the “centre cannot hold” (or, more prosaically, that things are going to hell in a hand basket), but things feel tenuous, house-of-card-sy.  Fiscally, for sure, post-2008 (which showed even money market funds aren’t secure).  Politically, obviously. Environmentally. Drug-wise. Idols are being smashed, the handy definition of which being anything that “I can control that will meet my needs.” There’s a confluence at work and it’s writ large in tragic script of the local obits.

Part of me looks at the dysfunction and wonders, “how long?” And yet another part looks at Detroit and thinks, “the Tigers still exist; we’ll muddle through, we always have.” The Christian view is that resurrection follows every death or decline and that “children are an act of optimism—sheer belief that the future will outshine the present.” 

From a Salman Rushdie (“The Golden House”) at the fools’ gold the Boomers discovered:
[They] grew up in fantasyland, the last generation in full employment, the last age of sex without fear...but somehow in their years in the fairy tale had... given them the conviction that by their own direct actions they could change and improve the world, and allowed them to eat the apple of Eden, which gave them the knowledge of good and evil, without falling under the spell of that spiraling Jungle Book Kaa-eyes of the fatal trust-in-me Snake... Whereas now horror was spreading everywhere at high speed and we closed our eyes or appeased it. 
Seems there’s something for everyone these days, dystopian-wise. The environmentalists, the politicians, families, Christians, economists, schoolteachers, health care pros, dog-catchers (“Dogs and cats, living together..”), even (especially) this Pope, who, like the dog who caught the car, now isn’t sure what he wants to do with it. 

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