Why I am ok with knowing I have Existential Depression.
As a child many of us are brought up to live in a bubble, to know and understand the world as a function or a formula. You get from point A by moving through B and ultimately arrive at C, correct? How do you apply that to a child that sees another way, how do you tell a child that A is to B as C is to D when they argue that the easiest route is Z to A, because Z leads directly into A from an anterior circle? Usually this question would be given to a parent and the definitive answer would be “You don’t” because, you, yourself had no idea that this was a possibility to decipher. I’ve been looking for answers all my life concerning why it was that I was picked from a group of 500 (modest school class roster) and decided upon as being “gifted.” It’s not often that this happens I’ve been told, I’m unsure as to how sound that actually is but I’d like to save that to be researched at another time.
What I’m getting at, is why is it that I was given that title? Moreover, when the time came that it was given to me, it was under circumstances that were out of my control and also had to do with my behavior. I was never an A + B = C student. I was more of a “why do birds caw this way when it’s threatened?” and “why are some animals more important than others?” kind of student, I was always the “he’s hyperactive and doesn’t listen” but always soaked up everything kind of kid, to a surprising level. I’ve always been weary and uninterested in maths, I didn’t much care for social standards and I didn’t care about wartime/historical figures in the way of violence. I excelled in english, top class. I excelled in history, top class. I hit my marks in science and literature, going as far as telling the other students answers and having them write the work down because I couldn’t be bothered, but anything to do with formulaic equations or violence, I deferred. It was as if my brain only worked in a creative, empathetic nature, which I’ve always been okay with.
(I’d like to go ahead and point out that I am by no means saying that I’m a genius, nor am I smarter than anyone or trying to say that I am, I’m just pointing out my personal formalities.)
But what is intelligence? If you measured my intelligence by my math skills, I’d be considered inept. I’ve never really gotten math, and by that I mean fully and completely, even going as far as taking remedial classes, and, feeling lesser for it. Intelligence shouldn’t be measured by one thing at all though and I surely do and always will feel as if empathy is one of the highest privileged “intelligences” there are.
Empathy has always been “my thing.” I remember once when I was 5, I was riding my tricycle in the rain and my mothers friend was doing busy work to his motorcycle nearby, when a chick fell from a tree in the middle of us. He already knew, because he was a close family friend, that I’d go for it, warning me with “don’t pick him up, he’ll peck you.” Instinctually, letting the words slip past my ears, I darted for the bird. I cupped my hands and as gently as I could, I picked up the bird and started for the tree. It happened, he pecked me and I cried. I think it surprised him when I, instead of dropping him like most 5 year old children would do, I ran faster for the tree. He kept pecking me, drew blood in the end but all I could think about was making sure he was ok and I wasn’t satisfied until I knew he was safe. This has been a cycle in my life, when I was 11 I had a female dog named “Sheba” she was realistically my only friend. I didn’t understand sex exactly at that age, but I did understand nurturing. Of course what I’m getting at is that she became pregnant, as an outside dog it was difficult for her, so I was always checking with her. I’d pass her water and make sure she was warm, I’d bring my sweaters out and get into trouble for letting her lay on them. Then, when the puppies finally made their first cries, I became attached. She, surprisingly to me, didn’t. It hurt me, almost physically making me ill, knowing that she hadn’t wanted anything to do with them in the beginning. It was then that I developed a firm grasp on nature. I learned that if you weren’t something, then you weren’t something, but you can be taught, and you can be remade. She would be irate with me when I would hold her down and let her puppies drink from her, I wouldn’t hurt her in any way but I made it clear that I wasn’t moving until they were full. I gave her extra food and extra water just so I knew that she was well taken care of. I wanted everyone to be well, that was the only thing that was on my mind. Even at school I lost my ability to care, opting for questions about “how can I help my puppies grow?” or “When will their eyes open, are they sick?” I kept doing that, and when interrupted, would become agitated/aggressive.
The same thing happened in my classes, if another child were to harm someone that I deemed “lesser” whether that be by their size, clothes or speech, I would defend them. I would use my hands to teach, rather than use my mouth to say the words that they wouldn’t choose to hear. I admit, I would hurt them to show them that it wasn’t okay to harm others. Eventually, by age 12 I learned that it wasn’t okay to let your hands say the things that your mouth wanted to. You can’t teach or show others things by harming. And that in itself, is a category of intelligence.
For example, wars. How can you validate an argument about wars, when you have no ample proof of the existence of empathy in massive groups? How can you help a world leader antiquate the older logic of, “strategically kill this, to have this outcome” when they, personally, have never seen a liberal strategy like that example, work? It’s when you take away the civility of the argument. It has nothing to do with “liberality” and it has nothing to do with a blue or red color. It has everything to do with ideal intelligent action. What is 1-1? It’s zero, isn’t it? So, ideally, when you take the equation down to the foundation, you’re left with this question. Have you ever noticed that some of the most brilliant minds are empathetic to the point of existential depression? It’s because of the fact that people who do have a more substantiated intelligence based on empathy feel as though we already know what is to come of our race. Because of the wars, harm and selfishness in the world, we can only see one reality. We’re, at the end of it all, realists. We dream and we hope, and we carry on a legacy of entitlement and love based on the moral codes of those before us. But regardless of that, we also see the reality of what our problem is to be solved with, which is “zero.” In wars, in terrorism and anything else. It’s not that we don’t want the bad men to be punished and it’s not as if we don’t understand what good that would do. But empathetically, we see the post-events of what that would do and it sickens us even more than the horrible deeds that had been done to warrant them being called “Bad men”. When you rationalize that the human race does indeed have a darker side and that it will always will, you also rationalize that maybe we’re doing something wrong to prevent the problem. Maybe we can fix this through things that aren’t violent, through things that don’t cause an immediate end. Because really, what does that fix? And how exactly does that solve the problem for future civilians of the earth or any other planet?
I think people with empathetic intelligence are needed in todays society more than ever, we make others deal with the fact that “no, that isn’t correct.” And I think tumblr enables us to reach out more, especially in leu of the Trans community activism and definitely in the actions and reactions of Ferguson. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense. When you think of it as another sort of problem, take it this way A - B = 1. Why is this bad? Excuse my bad math skills, but bare with me. We, as the human race, need 1 to be ZERO. It is only until we have A - A = ZERO, that we restore balance and lead another evolutionary step to truly realizing and acknowledging that we, indefinitely, are the same regardless of any type of category you would list. ZERO is just a figurehead for the bigger picture, which is to say that the character “O” is just a meaning for true equality and no indifference based on alternative characteristics. So when I say “A - B = 1” it’s more of B is heavier than A, B has more power, why can’t we equate both in the same way?
Ferguson is definitely on its way to showing other parts of the world that we don’t understand that yet, but from the hands and tears of the people crying out, that we can and maybe now is the time.
Empathy though, leads to depression. We’re constantly thrown into the mentality that life is beautiful, life is so full of love and hope and meaning and everything you do, everything you touch, has the ability to negatively or positively influence those things around you that you would like to effect. However, the things out of our control, like sickness, or disease or famine. Those things bore into our being, and I truly mean that, there is nothing like having those thoughts ache and peel at you. It leaves you bare and vulnerable, because to an empathetic intelligent person, it’s like losing parts of you to something you don’t want to actuate into the world. We contemplate these things constantly. Like death, how can it be stopped? If it were stopped, would it be the right decision to take it away? How would it be cruel in either way? What is on the other side of death, why will our actions never promote lasting change? Why aren’t people as nice to others as they could be, when faced with the fact that they could die tomorrow? Why is it that people become more kind, when they finally deal with that? What is sorrow, truly?
All of these questions are in my head on a day to day basis. I can see one little thing and it will set me off for hours, making my cheeks flare red and making my eyes leak. A little old man holding his tattered umbrella for his wife. A grandmother counting change over the counter, in solidarity, to buy food for her grandchild. A mother counting down the hours with her small daughter in a public place, you knowing they’ll be asked to return to the cold night air in the coming hours. These thoughts really do plague me, they keep me depressed and I know nothing can really help, because in the end I’m a singularity in a vastly plural world. Nothing I can do can immediately change their situation, but it still sinks heavy into my heart.
So yes, I live with existential depression, because I acknowledge and am effected by the things that I cannot change. However, I willfully and lovingly acknowledge that there are beauties in the world, and that things do get better with hope and courage and the will to stand and work hard for what you believe in and what you need to be accomplished, even if those around you can’t see the same thing. I think the world can be changed, if only you listen twice as well to it with your heart. Existential depression isn’t limited to “special” people, but if you are plagued with it, take it as a slight blessing. Because maybe, just maybe, you were meant to see more in the world than most eyes and hearts get to see.