Undergrowth with Two Figures, Vincent Van Gogh, Cincinnati Art Museum.
Why do I write?
Sometimes I write with a purpose: an underlying drive to express myself on a particular subject, and show the world some small fact or theory that I have distilled out of the detritus of information that I have gathered in my lifetime. This item has become crystallized in my mind as if it were a mote of dust in a super-saturated solution, driving all else before it until I have expressed its vision of reality.
Sometimes I write simply to stay sane.
Sanity for me is a hard won and often fleeting gift: curse and blessing all in one. If I were mad, I could pretend the world is different from what it is; ignore the suffering and pain I see around me, and go blithely through life as if none mattered save myself. I would not feel the desperation of the mother telling her child to not drop the ice cream sandwich, because she cannot afford to buy her another. I would not have to watch helplessly, my own wallet nearly empty, as an old woman decides between not enough healthy food to ease the ache in her stomach, or barely enough unhealthy food to fill her pleading gut.
I see the despair that surrounds me as more and more Americans have their financial legs cut out from under them by the oligarchs who increasingly have a say in every facet of our lives. Hope is offered by individuals like President Obama, and snatched away in the name of compromise and political expediency.
To quote Czech playwright, dissident, and former President Va'clav Havel (from Disturbing the Peace, chapter 5; 1986), " Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." This is also the essence of sanity: not an impossible belief that all will turn out well, but that there is some meaning behind the actions of others: that they are not simply repeating their self-serving acts of willful destruction and repression from ignorance, but out of some malicious intent. Evil can be directly and openly opposed; ignorance only endured and corrected over time.
The word "depression" is used to describe both what mental health professionals acknowledge is a very serious and growing (in numbers) character disorder in this country, as well as the worst sort of economic downturn. This downturn includes a severe slow down or stagnation of a nation's economic growth, combined with a hoarding of money by banks, large businesses, and the wealthy. This in turn creates a heterodyning effect that drives a nation's economy into a cycle of wide-spread unemployment, the closure of small or less profitable businesses, and the wide-spread inability of governments at every level to provide necessary services to the rapidly increasing numbers of destitute citizens.