July 2, 2012

727 words 4 mins read

Let Depression Be Your Guide

Yesterday, I gave you a reason to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision.  But I never said to let go of your anger or depression. ** That’s because we need creativity, focus, and action, and you get those through emotional distress. **


In his new best-selling book, Jonah Lehrer discusses the link between depression and creativity:

This helps explain why Forgas has found that states of sadness— he induces the downcast mood with a film about death and cancer— also correlate with better writing samples; subjects compose sentences that are clearer and more compelling. Because they were more attentive to what they were writing, they produced more refined prose, the words polished by their misery.

Lehrer, Jonah (2012-03-19). Imagine: How Creativity Works (p. 77). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Wanna feel some depression? Think about this:  since July of 2009, we’ve been fighting against Obamacare. For almost a full year, we spent many hours every week in the streets trying to block Obama’s power grab.

After the Senate crammed through hastily written legislation in March 2010, we looked toward the Supreme Court as our next line defense.  When Richard Verilli, the government’s lawyer, failed miserably in his oral arguments in March, we felt a quiet confidence build inside our guts: Obamacare would be toast.

Then came June. Each Monday and Thursday we waited to hear the news. But the news didn’t come.  “Maybe next week,” we told each other.

On June 28, there was no calendar left before them; the court had to rule.  And it did.

CNN and Fox News both reported “The individual mandate is unconstitutional.”  They forgot to mention: “under the commerce clause.”

As Twitterdom celebrated, I watched the live blog on SCOTUSblog.com.  While others reported the mandate dead, SCOTUSblog posted: “The individual mandate survives as a tax.”

Even after I tweeted this news, hundreds of tweets in my stream continued to celebrate the greatly exaggerated death of the individual mandate.

“Those poor bastards,” I thought.

One by one, the word got out.  “Holy crap!”

To me, the shining city on a hill went dark.

Then I went about my work, ignoring the news for the rest of the day.

At 6:30 pm, I left the office.  I changed clothes in my car on the way to Forest Park.

Depression has a way of churning up weird sediment from the bottom of the mind.  Sweating the 107-degree sun and driving east on I-44, the inside of my car grew dark from the shadow of the I-270 overpass. I saw Ronald Reagan in bed, white sheets over him, his face contorted in agony.

“Where’s the rest of me?” he growled.

The remainder of the movie, Kings Row, played out in my mind.

I was looking for words to say at the rally, and I found them.

My mood lifted.

Creativity emerges from depression, as it turns out.  And so does perseverance:

“Successful writers are like prizefighters who keep on getting hit but won’t go down,” says Nancy Andreasen, a researcher at University of Iowa. “They’ll stick with it until it’s right. And that seems to be what the mood disorders help with.”

Lehrer, Jonah (2012-03-19). Imagine: How Creativity Works (p. 79). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

What’s true of writers and fighters is true of patriots in the battlefield, of crusaders for  justice, and of champions of a cause. The fight is never easy.  Depression sucks.  Agony hurts.  Pain is not happiness, no matter how the Ministry of Truth might spin it.

But the pain also compels action. And pain tells you you’re still alive.

Andreasen says. “If you’re at the cutting edge, then you’re going to bleed.”

Lehrer, Jonah (2012-03-19). Imagine: How Creativity Works (p. 79). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

If you didn’t buy my Kings Row happy story, that’s fine.  You and I will weave in and out of happiness and depression for the rest of our lives.  It’s the nature of fighting for something bigger than ourseles.  Neither of us can get our arms around it alone, and when we corner it, it manages to escape.

But it can’t run forever.

If you still feel the pain of loss and hurt and fear, then you’re still alive. You still have fight in you.  And you and me and millions of others fighting for liberty should scare the crap out of Barack Obama.