Niagara Gazette — Don’t you feel guilty at times when amidst all the fun-loving aspects of this glorious season, you nonetheless get down–not to split hairs, depressed. First question: What is this thing called depression? Whole libraries could be filled with tomes and articles on the subject, and I’m sure scholarly debate still rages on the topic; but I still like the old saw that depression is anger turned inward. I also believe it’s strongly related to fear of some sort–even the fear of fear. Or as that great LA philosopher, Raquel Welch, said, fear of crossing this or that figurative bridge.
So: How do you elude such self-pitying doldrums? Again, there are tons of panaceas proffered, including on Christian TV, which sometimes seem very cogent. Many years ago I read an article that said men who are depressed ought to shower and shave, and for both sexes, get outside. Those ideas are certainly useful–when in doubt, spiff up and walk in a place where at least summer doesn’t hit 105 degrees daily! But here’s another antidote I’ve found for depression: the daily paper! What so often occurs when you flip through and read this or that story is you begin saying to yourself: “Hey buddy, you think you got troubles?” One reads that 66 people were blown away by some suicide bombing in Iraq or 17 in Afghanistan, you name it. Or that Al-Qaida is making a bid to stockpile SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, getting them easiest in Africa, where Libya’s dictator Gadhafi left them behind. Making all flights potentially dangerous? Absolutely. Depression is a self-centered phenomenon that shuts out the rest of the world’s problems, which are so often serious ones. Gaining a sense — however brief — of those more serious problems brought home by the paper’s stories of the day helps one, I believe, elude one’s own inward-looking focus. Sometimes I get to some riveting item and just stop right there for a while, not ready as yet to check sports scores or the latest on Lindsay Lohan. In any event one’s own depression stemming frequently from more trivial concerns suddenly flies away, at least for a time. A propos, a Boston-area journalist was once complaining about the fabric of his life to the retired hockey icon, Bobby Orr; and Orr told him with a mischievous smile to come for a ride in his luxury vehicle — he was taking the scribe, it turned out, to a hospital for sick kids, where suddenly the journalist’s woes flew out the window! On the way home Orr asked him flatly how he felt now. And the man gave some sheepish answer — his own problems having been overtrumped. I know — many of you truly feel (unless you’re some unempathetic narcissist) such woes, terrible ones, afflicting others; but the next day, or maybe even a few hours later — kerpow! Like night and the Jesuits always returning (as the French say), so do those nagging bits of sand in your mental-emotional shoes. I.e., the personal morass of depression ... Then you have to open out again to other sufferings and woes on near and far horizons. That’s why they call it a daily paper, and among other reasons, why it’s important to read it. Of course this is in some ways — this connection into storms or coups or bank collapses far away — the concept Germans call “schadenfreude,” which most charitably, means: let the other guy suffer, not me. So self-centered, fickle, and forgetful is the human species... But nobody’s perfectly lucky all the way, so you better try to feel the other guy’s ailments, lest they become your own? I guess that’s one message here; however, the main one is tapping into greater political, societal, or economic ills in order to ward off those personal lows that do hang around. Will you always be able to make lemonade out of lemons? Will you be able durably and reliably to overcome this “have I got a problem!” focus? Will you be capable each day of viewing the proverbial glass half full, rather than half empty? Will you always accept, and stop ruing what you don’t have? Of course not. But do try the daily paper!B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.