Saturday, 21 April 2012

I’m Depressed Again

I’m depressed again; I know I am because I feel stressed out and the slightest commitment taxes me to the hilt, and I don’t want to get out of bed.  When will I ever be able to just be me?  For a long time, I have wanted to get beyond my depression, my almost inevitable descent into this illness, and all that goes with that.  It is curious to say this but I think that struggling against something has forged my character to a very strong and extreme degree.  I certainly wouldn’t be the person I was without this struggle in my life, but at the same time I earnestly wish I didn’t get depressed from time to time.  But the sad fact is, I do; so I have to live with it and accept it.

There’s something that’s been troubling me for a long while now.  I am a Christian but none of my immediate family and friends are Christian-will I be on my own in Heaven?  I am asking a serious question.  If all the people who haven’t come to Jesus are going to be lost, then that makes me unhappy.  God has called me out of a background where few if any of my family and friends are Christians-where does that leave me and why does God pick someone like me?  If God picks some, and not others, how can someone He didn’t particularly pick be blamed for not becoming a Christian?  Surely it says in the Bible, words to the effect that God draws each Christian to Him; so then how can anyone be blamed for not approaching Him when they haven’t been called?  I’m confused!  If only Christians are going to get to Heaven, then what about Moses or Abraham or Joseph or Daniel?  Will they be in Heaven?  What about all those millions and millions of people on the earth before Jesus’ time, and all those gentiles who were not the Chosen People; what about them?  

I wonder if I’d lived long ago, like one of those Victorian fishermen caught forever in a photograph, would I have been any happier, would my life have been simpler?  Isn’t that what we all really want, a simplified life, a life where there are no unnecessary complications, no unnecessary situations, where we know what we have to do and we can simply do it?  I dream of such simplicity.

Most of us settle for 2nd best; we are sort of forced into it for so many reasons.  Because we lack wealth or connections, because we are seen as low on the social scale, maybe because we are unemployed or because we have a low-paying job of some kind or even the colour of our skin or ethnic background; whatever the case may be, for some reason we have accepted 2nd best and we never really expect anything good to happen to us; this was certainly me for large chunks of my adult life.  We think that someone more worthy or more educated or ‘posher’ than us has the right to a better life, whereas we feel that we only have the right to a crappy life, punctuated by occasional unpleasant things we have to face and grin and bear and accept through gritted teeth.  If this is democracy, then I dread to think of what life must be like in other more backward countries.

The hardest thing in my life is looking for a job while I am unemployed.  I apply for dozens and dozens and am lucky to hear back from one in twenty, and that’s usually a no-thank-you.  I think of all the millions of people out in the world, struggling to get by, and holding on to whatever dreams they might have that keep them going through the worst times.  Life is hard for some people, and we don’t all see life through rose-tinted glasses.

We’re a curious mix of average and unique; how can that be?  Many of us are normal people, we don’t really stand out, we don’t dye our hair green and we don’t festoon ourselves in tattoos or body-piercings; we don’t feel the need to foist our opinions down people’s throats; in many respects we’re just gloriously ordinary.  But is there something wonderful in being just ordinary, even being gloriously ordinary?  I think when we strip away all the pretence from people, all the things that make one person different from another, or better than another, or richer than another, then all of us are just ordinary people at the end of it all.

It seems like I’ve been lying in bed all my life.  We are looking for that perfect moment, of peace and happiness and then hope we can hold onto it.  What constitutes peace and happiness for one person might be different for another person.  My dream of peace and happiness would be to be earning my living as a writer, to be living in North Wales somewhere and from time to time to be able to take walks along the coast or through the wild countryside there.  Of course, I pray for peace and happiness every day as a Christian and I know I don’t need material things to make me happy, God can do this for me whatever my circumstances; but I can dream.

Sometimes we hide behind drink or a drug or an attitude, to say to the world we don’t care or to try to be hard or cool or indifferent to other people, or for whatever reason; but the fact is, we are hurting in some way and we do want to connect with other people in a real and lasting way; but often we just don’t know how to reach out to other people without the risk of being rejected or seen as a little odd or needy.  The dichotomy of life is that we do need other people at times, but we think we are happy behind our wall of toughness, our wall of loneliness that just won’t let other people in.

Sometimes, I don’t want to face life at all, I just don’t want to face my life at all; it’s as simple as that.  And the hardest thing to do when feeling like that is to pick yourself up and just get on with what you have to get on with.  I envy those who have happy lives and good careers, or are doing in life exactly what they want and doing what makes them happy; I really do.  But it’s not an angry envy, just an envy that makes me work harder to be doing in life what I want to be doing.

We want it all to mean something, that it all makes sense, that we can tie all the loose ends together and they all fit.  And when it doesn’t, we can get disappointed.  We are meant as Christians to leave it all to God, to let go and let Him work in our lives, but at the same time if we are ambitious, or we want to start a business or carve out a career in some field or endeavour to better ourselves in some way, aren’t we saying that God can only be trusted so far, then we have to take control?  It seems to me that in some way we are doing just that; but what is the answer?  If we want to paint, even in spite of whether we are Christian or not, we can’t pray for a painting, we have to do it ourselves!  How far do we lean on God and how far do we lean on ourselves?  I believe we need to pray on this regularly and ask God to make sense of what can seem baffling and impenetrable.  Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you can’t think for yourself.

I want to say a thousand thousand things and then, sometimes, I don’t want to say anything at all.  But for some reason, I’m never lost for words when it comes to writing.  Whether these words have any value, that’s another story altogether.

I know I’m depressed because I don’t want to go to bed at night, but when I do stay up later I get tetchy, stressed and overtired; I feel restless and don’t know what to do with myself.  I want to sleep, but I don’t want to sleep; how can you find a solution to that?  Am I a genius, or a madman?  Or both?  Or, more likely, neither?

Instead of trying to change the world, it just might be better to change myself.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Ships That Pass in The Night

I was wondering about how often we make friends in work, on college and university courses, through other friends and sometimes even briefly at bus stops or at the supermarket and so on, and it got me thinking that we often make good friends this way and then we move on and never see them again.  In thinking about this, it got me thinking that so many parts of our lives are undiscovered, in the fact that we don’t give much thought to what can seem passing or irrelevant; I feel that much of our complex human nature can be found in such ruminations, if we only stopped and paused now and again, just to think about whatever is on our minds.

What is this human nature, why do we think so profoundly, why do we have the urge to create, or ponder deep issues, what is it in us that makes us yearn for things we can’t even express adequately?  I think that it is pondering and coming to terms with our extremely complex nature, the thought and emotions we sometimes have and the yearnings for understanding and to make sense of who we are and what makes us tick, that we begin to see there is more to us than meets the eye.  Human beings to some extent are motivated by their emotions, can be thrilled by emotions, or caged by them and often all kinds of people make decisions when they are in what can be described as an emotional state.  We can’t escape our emotions to a certain extent, and sometimes they can blind us to greater truths.  Some people are good at controlling them or masking them, whilst others are a slave to them and will act how they feel.  In some cases, it is good to conquer emotions and in other cases it is sometimes good to be guided by them too.

We were made for variety of all kinds; to eat a variety of foods, to experience a variety of emotions, to do a variety of different things.  Our imaginations can build whole worlds, even if those worlds are only in our head.  An animal can go through its whole life eating the same things, doing the same things, and perhaps thinking the same things; but humans were definitely created for variety and to be more than the sum of our parts.  It would be a boring world if we all looked the same and talked the same and ate the same food.  We can all learn so much from each other after all. 

Sometimes, for no particular reason, I can be thinking about things that move me in some way, for no particular reason at all and I can be carried off as it were on flights of fancy.  I think all humans drift off like this and get caught up in daydreams of one kind or another.  Much of what passes for reality for us as individuals could be part of an emotional state; what we love, who we love, what and who we hate, what we find beautiful, what we find worthy, what we dismiss as beneath our contempt and what we find that is of value.  I sometimes think we ascribe great importance to what isn’t that relevant at all and dismiss or play down what is vital to us as human beings.

When we go on holiday or planning to go on a holiday, we can even as adults get feelings of anticipation and excitement; I certainly do anyway.  The feelings when we’re walking alone on a beach in some remote place, or a forest somewhere or even when we are in a beautiful town looking at people and the shops and restaurants; it is hard to describe but I think all people need to value these moments, the moments of introspection and the moments of abstract thought and simple pleasures; it’s part of being human.

In understanding that we are often a web of complex emotions, feelings and abstract thoughts, we can begin to understand our wonderful complexity, the marvellous complexity of it all, the wonder that is a human being.  How can anyone think that the marvellous complexity of a human being is just an accident, a glorious accident no less, but an accident with no purpose?  When people ask for the existence of God, I could tell them to do no more than look in the mirror; you are the evidence for God!  No need for theology or preaching there.

Do you sometimes feel the weight of the world on your shoulders?  I know I do; sometimes anyway.  For whatever reason, sometimes I feel that everything gets on top of me and even interacting with other people, even my good mates, becomes a chore that I don’t want to face.  And like most people in life, I have things that I need to do and things that I want to do too.  I wonder whether other people think and feel like I do, or am I completely unique.  What is this human thing we are, these sad and solitary feelings, this urge to create, this urge to express our innermost being, this desire to communicate the deepest feelings we have?  In these yearnings, that I think all humans have, we can understand the complexity of ourselves and begin to comprehend the nature of God too.

At the end of the 1960’s there was a sense of questioning everything, questioning the validity of western culture and questioning the very nature of humanity.  The early 60’s was Beatles-inspired, poppy and black and white, and the late 60’s was a time when everything was in flux, a kind of transitional state; nothing was certain any more.  Pop music and pop culture began to be more in tune with what many people were going through and what people were thinking.  For a time, there was questioning, a sense of excitement and the idea that anything and everything was possible; there was a real sense of hope.  Of course, today we tend to view the naïve assumptions of the hippie culture as lacking substance and real depth, and we tend with hindsight to see it as transitory and part of its time and place.  All human created things pass eventually, however deeply held they may be or how lasting they may appear.

What if Jesus came in a suit and tie, and short cropped hair, looking more like a businessman; would we respect Him more?  Do we often judge people by the way they dress or speak or by how they present themselves?  I think we all do, even people who might consider themselves believers in equality and people not particularly prejudiced.  If a person finds someone else attractive and the person next to them not attractive, they are making a kind of judgement, the kind that if we are honest we all make or we have all made at one time or the other.  We all have people we like and we all have people we like less; in the same way we make judgements.  I don’t know God’s answer to questions like this but I am interested in finding out.  It seems to me that we should in all matters and as much as is humanly possible, treat everyone with the same respect and consideration that we would hope others would treat us with, regardless of whether we first like them or not.

In exploring our emotions and our deepest feelings, we might just come to some valuable conclusions.  For me this might be to understand that human beings are whole worlds of knowledge, of discovery, of love even.  Whatever, we are far more than we often think we are, that’s for certain.