soothing opposition

10 May 2014 at 14:47 (Uncategorized)

I am retiring this blog.

Dedicated to Sparky the wonder dog, November 2000 – May 2014.

He was a good dog. His call will forever echo in soothing opposition to the black dog.

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Favourite Things

2 July 2013 at 3:06 (Uncategorized)

In reverse chronological order,

Today:

  • A tuneful “Good Morning”
  • Locating misplaced items
  • A nice game of chess
  • Dancing
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Life

2013-05-20:

  • Change of seasons
  • Happy children
  • Donating blood
  • Waist coats
  • Medical imaging
  • Harmonicas
  • Clavicles
  • Tree canopies

2011-11-23:

  • Climbing trees
  • Running
  • Tall trees
  • Debate
  • Formatting dates YYYY-MM-DD

2011-04-13:

  • Unicycling
  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Bicycling
  • The day after laundry day
  • Mathematics

2008-05-13:

  • Balancing
  • Sun showers
  • Foreign language
  • Soursobs
  • Cellos
  • Hugs
  • Paperclips

2007-02-01:

  • Efficient sleep
  • Correct change
  • Decent surf
  • Lucid dreaming
  • Tail wind
  • Pasta
  • Bare feet

2006-05-08:

  • Laughter
  • Being early
  • Clean teeth
  • Dress pants
  • SMS poems
  • Soft misty rain
  • Double clutching
  • Lady Gray tea
  • and riding my new bike

2006-02-28:

  • Rain water
  • Fresh air
  • Stars
  • Dawn
  • Joy
  • Clean sheets
  • Freshly shaven skin
  • and Orang-utans

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What is Love

23 June 2013 at 13:49 (Uncategorized)

Love is…

In 1st Corinthians it is written that:

“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Today these verses are well-known wedding fodder.

What it fails to mention is that love is sickening, sometimes toxic.

Love can be blinding
and wild
and terrifying.

Love is inevitably coupled with great loss.
It’s at the heart of the most painful encounters.
The greater the love the greater the loss.

And yet, it is utterly worthwhile.
Love is both an insidious addiction and a wonderful disease.

Update 2013-06-27:

Faith, Hope or Love?

I was thinking today, I have more to say regarding the conclusion of chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians.

The chapter closes with another famous platitude, focusing on what the author thinks are the most important facets of the human experience. What drivers would remain if we could distil everything else away?

(13) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

In other words: (Faith|Hope) < Love

Ok, it should be no surprise that I can agree that faith isn’t the greatest of the three. For one thing, faith relies on hope; faith is hope without evidence. Faith is a subset of hope. They’re clearly not on equal footing.

Love on the other hand is independent to hope but I don’t think you can argue that it’s greater. A human without love is probably miserable and sapped of energy. But as long as they think that things might change they will keep going.

However if you remove hope then all is quickly lost. All the love in the world will not save those who’ve lost hope. More love won’t cure the terminally ill or the suicidal. The only thing that will save the hopeless is reinstating hope. This treatment (medical intervention, counselling) is often funded with love, but that’s an irrelevant detail, success depends purely on whether hope is able to be restored not on the amount of love invested.

As a driving force hope trumps love. I’m a big fan of love. As it has been said, we should strive to love others twenty-five percent more than we expect them to love us. But ultimately, love is useless without hope.

Miscellaneous Addendums

And totally as an aside, this chapter also contains quite possibly my favourite bible verse:

(11) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

This resonates with me in only the most snide fashion. When I was a child I believed this book of fairytales whole heartedly. When I became an adult I stopped playing with these invisible friends.

Finally, here are a few quotes about love that came to mind while pondering this stuff:

A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Strength to Love

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.

- Mahatma Gandhi

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Favourite Things

20 May 2013 at 12:30 (Uncategorized)

In reverse chronological order,

Today:

  • Change of seasons
  • Happy children
  • Donating blood
  • Waist coats
  • Medical imaging
  • Harmonicas
  • Clavicles
  • Tree canopies

2011-11-23:

  • Climbing trees
  • Running
  • Tall trees
  • Debate
  • Formatting dates YYYY-MM-DD

2011-04-13:

  • Unicycling
  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Bicycling
  • The day after laundry day
  • Mathematics

2008-05-13:

  • Balancing
  • Sun showers
  • Foreign language
  • Soursobs
  • Cellos
  • Hugs
  • Paperclips

2007-02-01:

  • Efficient sleep
  • Correct change
  • Decent surf
  • Lucid dreaming
  • Tail wind
  • Pasta
  • Bare feet

2006-05-08:

  • Laughter
  • Being early
  • Clean teeth
  • Dress pants
  • SMS poems
  • Soft misty rain
  • Double clutching
  • Lady Gray tea
  • and riding my new bike

2006-02-28:

  • Rain water
  • Fresh air
  • Stars
  • Dawn
  • Joy
  • Clean sheets
  • Freshly shaven skin
  • and Orang-utans

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Good Grief

3 March 2013 at 20:22 (Uncategorized)

It has the power to blindside you even when you expect it. That initial shock which sucks all of the oxygen from the room and leaves you feeling weak in the knees. Things slow down as reality starts to fragment; your mind attempts to perform some impossible gymnastics to reconcile the facts. The news is simple; they have died, and yet you can’t make that fit. Instead you flip back-and-forth in disbelief. At times you find yourself cycling through absurd alternative realities; where you’d intervened, where this was a dream, where you can wind back the clock, where things were different. Sometimes you wish it, sometimes, for a minute, you truly believe it.

This is interspersed with moments of distress. Overwhelmed, there’s little more than pure anguish. Somewhere underneath you may be longing for them or angry at yourself or angry at the injustice of reality. For now this is all drowned out by misery. It will repeat.

Then, perhaps after a day or so things start to feel like they settle back to earth. And just when it feels like you’re regaining your balance it returns and knocks the wind out of you. The warmup is over. While before you felt overwhelmed now there is no rhyme or reason to what is taking place. It often stops as abruptly as it starts. You cry like you’re fitting – a spasm of violent sadness. Exhausted, your body stops and comes up for oxygen. In this scramble of thoughts nothing is coherent, your thrashing body a pitiful expression of the anger. I’ve seen it written that “it’s only possible to grieve with 100% of one’s being” and after a bit you need a break. Soon enough there’ll be another bout. Tomorrow you’ll wonder why your ribs feel bruised.

Once your body is exhausted it will yield for a moment. Your mind becomes numbed as the same thoughts continue their assault. Maybe you can distract yourself for a period, but you know it’ll return. Eventually these distractions improve in effectiveness. The thoughts recirculate but less regularly or dominantly. Then, once it’s calmed down you might wake during the early hours of the morning to find that they’re back, running through your head at full volume. It feels like it’ll be this way forever. It’s possible that those unanswerable questions will not be answered but eventually the intensity driving them will dim.

For now, you just slouch back into the ropes and roll with the punches. This is how it gets better.

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Melancholia

28 February 2013 at 6:54 (Uncategorized)

I wrote this a few weeks ago, but now seems as good as any to post it.

I think the film Melancholia does a good job showcasing mental illness from two opposing points of view. It is centred around a woman named Justine who has depression and is unable to achieve much in life. It seems that whenever she makes an effort it results in more sadness. In one of the more extreme examples we see her sit down to enjoy some of her favourite food with her family; she musters up some positivity but before she’s finished her first mouthful she collapses, sobbing that the food tastes like ashes. From her perspective there is little point in investing in anything because she’s only going to feel new misery.

There’s a growing sense of separation between her and the rest of the population who are busy enjoying life. At the best of times Justine is a chore to be around. As her state degenerates she is profoundly debilitated and her melancholia saps the joy out of the room. I feel like the way that she is ostracised for her misery is quite realistic; sympathy only stretches so far and when the tolerance wears out they wish that she would just pull herself together.

 

Then, half way through the film Earth faces an apocalyptic threat. It’s revealed that a previously undetected planet is set to collide with our planet in a number of days. All of the adults stop investing in life in any meaningful way. The looming annihilation drives everyone into a nihilistic frenzy. They make some futile attempts to desperately revive their happiness, but ultimately they know they’re destined to experience nothing more than an ashy aftertaste.

For me, this is a perfect picture of what it is like to live with depression. From a depressed standpoint the world looks miserable. The only thing keeping people here is their blissful hedonism and all of these efforts are temporary. We suffer and we cause suffering upon others for our short stint on Earth and when we’re done we are soon forgotten. Eventually the sun will cease to nurture the planet before the universe winds down into a perfect chaos of entropy. Whatever the case, our effect in the long term is ultimately futile.

This is the most coherent example of my depressed thinking that I can put to print. Most of it is not that coherent. Actually most of my depressed thinking is absurd. But the solidity of my thinking is of little importance, it still colours the world in greys and turns every flavour to ash. This is my experience with depression, of course everyone is different, YMMV.

On occasion when I’ve been in the midst of this some people have insinuated that I should pull myself together or make a fresh start. This is impractical. From my perspective there might as well be a planet about to collide with earth and this person is suggesting that I should lighten-the-fuck-up and enjoy a glass of wine. Regardless of how I present, there is no enjoyment at times like these. Negative emotions echo every effort. I feel my experiences are limited to a lonely sense of gloom and doom with the occasional suicidal impulse.

 

I started writing about this because I’d been reading about the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz. I spent a few weeks trying to distil some thoughts regarding his death. I’ve read a lot of opinions, but at best I think we can only have a good guess regarding what happened and his state of mind.

The only conclusions that I can draw are that we need to keep pushing for more effective and easier to access psychiatric services, and we need to look out for those around us. Those at risk need to be nurtured. In a perfect world this would be unconditional. They would never be turned away or assaulted by the justice system as was the case with Aaron.

Instead we’re left with another tragic loss.

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Favourite List

23 November 2011 at 12:09 (Uncategorized)

Following the publication of beady eyes a valued reader emailed in, complaining that The Soothing Call was not very soothing. Specifically this reader noted that there was a continued focus on death, suicide and dying. Furthermore apparently quoting Radiohead and David Foster Wallace can promote tiresome feelings of depression. In part, we responded; ‘if at any stage during your digestion of The Soothing Call you feel depressed or uneasy our staff would like to remind you of our on-going list of favourite things.’

The response to this suggestion was yet another(!) complaint that the list was too hard to navigate because it’s scattered over several posts and none of the posts are tagged (there’s no pleasing some people). We do not currently have the human resources that would be required to tag all of the posts and generally we find that the less time that we spend playing with WordPress the happier our lives are. However, on reflection, an amalgamation of the list is a great idea. Thank you as always for the critical feedback.

So, in reverse chronological order,

Today:
Climbing Trees
Running
Tall Trees
Debate
Formatting dates YYYY-MM-DD

2011-04-13:
unicycling
crunchy peanut butter
bicycling
the day after laundry day
mathematics

2008-05-13:
balancing
sun showers
foreign language
soursobs
cellos
hugs
paperclips

2007-02-01:
efficient sleep
correct change
decent surf
lucid dreaming
tail wind
pasta
bare feet

2006-05-08:
laughter
being early
clean teeth
dress pants
sms poems
soft misty rain
double clutching
Lady Gray tea

and riding my new bike

2006-02-28:
rain water
fresh air
stars
dawn
joy
clean sheets
freshly shaven skin

and orang-utans

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Occupy

22 November 2011 at 12:49 (Uncategorized)

(disclosure: I’m an Aussie who only takes an intermittent and fleeting interest in US politics).

I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protestors. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”
- Barack Obama, January 28, 2011

I’ve watched the footage of police spraying the student protestors at the University of California, Davis, several times – Andy Baio has put together a nice compilation here.

The peaceful protest carried out by these students is uplifting. The response by the police is tyrannical. There have been dozens of other reports of police assaulting people during these protests. I have a few concerns:

  • Are the police being militarised? Is it beneficial?
  • Will the police be held accountable? I think this accountability should start with a discussion regarding whether the police were intending to incite a riot at UC Davis.
  • As Glenn Greenwald outlines, hostility like this will limit the public’s willingness to exercise their rights.
  • It is also abundantly clear that the system is rigged to look after the rich. The police aren’t protecting the people; the people are still being exploited by the “1%” (who control the police and the politics).

    The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
    ― Frank Zappa

    Last year we saw Bradley Manning arrested and tortured by his government. We’ve also seen the powers-that-be do what they can to destroy wikileaks, Julian Assange and finally Charlie Veitch. They’re a bunch of bullies.

    It will be interesting to see what happens. I wonder how the police would behave if these people where exercising their second amendment rights (not that I support that idea, but it does always strike me as bizarre that for a society which largely values peace, we instil it with the barrel of a gun). Speaking of which, I thought this post on veterans today was also worthwhile.

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    beady eyes

    17 November 2011 at 12:52 (Uncategorized)

    We’re here for such a short time. To operate day-to-day I try to push this fact aside and pretend that it’ll be ok. I will escape. Or at the very least my end will be peaceful. I’ll be ready.

    The daunting truth is that we have no idea when our time will come. Will we be ready? What will we leave unfinished and who will we leave behind? Death is the end of all the conversations and meals and hugs that you will ever share. It creates an unfulfilled future without the opportunity to cherish another moment.

    As i reflect on this I can’t drop the mental image of an animal in its final moments of struggle. As Radiohead illustrate:

    Cracked eggs / dead birds
    Scream as they fight for life
    I can feel death / can see its beady eyes
    All these things into position
    All these things we’ll one day swallow whole

    One day I will be the creature staring into death’s beady eyes and choking as I struggle to swallow the truth of the situation. Once it is too late I’ll come to recognise that time is up. I will share the confusion and anguish of that premature bird.

    The other “natural” possibility is the fate of my Great-grandmother. After 99 years her life concluded in a nursing home; senile and waiting for Jesus to come and take her. Her last few years didn’t appear to be particularly dignified or happy. Come to think of it, in many ways it was the same fate, only drawn-out.

    Perhaps this is one reason why parts of my brain continue to advocate the third option.

    I’ll end this piece with a quote from David Foster Wallace:

    The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flame yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don‘t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

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    favourite things

    13 April 2011 at 3:04 (Uncategorized)

    unicycling
    crunchy peanut butter
    bicycling
    the day after laundry day
    mathematics

    13-5-2008 // 01-02-2007 // 08-05-2006 // 28-02-2006

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