I recognize that depression can be the result of an insidious chemical imbalance. I am not writing about that miserable ghoul that tries to find a home in many an otherwise healthy person.
We all suffer from depression of some kind and of severity. No one is immune from it. Usually it’s a downer, like a cloudy day that, in my part of the country, is of short duration. When we lose a job, a friend, a loved one, when we are sick or feel lonely, depression seems to be a pretty normal reaction. But is it possible that chronic depression, absent the chemical problem, is also a normal reaction?
We are taught to be joyful, taught to put a smile on our faces, taught to be optimistic and see the cup as half full, not half empty. Happiness is a cultural demand in our society. Are you happy? If not, buy a new car. Are you happy? If not, get a facelift or some other kind of lift. Are you happy? If not, drink a Coors or better yet, get drunk, or call your local dealer. Are you happy? If not, get a new spouse, experience a new love affair or come out of the closet.
Are you unhappy? If so, please do not admit it. You will be seen as sick. You will be subjected to treatment. You may even be jailed as a risk to yourself and others.
What if all of this sunshine called happiness is simply imposed on us like any other belief system? We must be happy or we are sick. We will be in trouble if the cultural imperative of happiness escapes us. Send us to the shrink at an unhappy expense to tell us how happy we should be and who will prescribe happy pills for us.
I think of our dogs. They wag their tails and we see them as essentially happy. But they are not aware of the existential truth and Mother Nature’s dirty little joke that she never tires telling: Birth, struggle, infirmity and death.
We have been given that devilish gift called awareness, some call it intelligence. We were also given the power to make choices. We are defined by our choices. We can be happy, at least cheerful, at least brave, or we can whimper and whine and plod along in our own gloomy mental cave. We can choose to enjoy and cherish that magical gift called life, or we can choose to curse the day we were born. But if we choose the latter, are we sick or simply in tune with the ultimate truth, that Mother Nature is still playing that same little joke on us?
I say we play it back on Mother Nature. Eternity would be hell. On, say, our five-hundred and fifty-seven millionth birthday, or our fifteenth billionth, and we find ourselves still no closer to the end than our beginning, one might be begging Mother Nature: “Please, oh, please play your dirty little joke on us. Please, just this once.” A beginning without an end would, indeed, be hell.
Life without the simple pattern of the flower – its tender shoot emerging in the springtime sun, its strength to rise again after some careless foot has smashed it, its willingness to endure pain as its tight bud unfolds, its incomparable beauty as a blossom and the miraculous spread of its seeds in fall winds is part of Mother Nature’s plan as well.
Perfect. And we are in sync with its magic.