Saturday, November 17, 2012

Faith, Depression, Loss, and So It Goes

i have a dear online friend whom i knew a few years ago as a student, and adored.  we've since become close, in the way electronic media  sometimes fosters closeness---personal in a very public context.  it's odd, but it happens sometimes.

She's in her young 40s, old enough to have been through a lot good and a lot bad in life; she is  a reader, a thinker, and a born-again christian.  she writes GOD in capital letters, and this matters.  GOD is her foundation, and holds her up through some rough times, including what i read as close to clinical depression [that's how i read it, b/c it sounds so much like mine].  she is enormously busy, accomplishing a lot, including the raising of 2 toddlers; going to school; volunteer fire fighting; monthly military duty; extra readings of 'great thinkers' christian and otherwise; and is about to enter a course to become a paramedic.  i know i've left out a lot of what she does.

her politics simply bewilder me, as i think mine to hers, b/c they seem to come from the same gut place; a loathing of people hurting people.  she agrees with most of the extreme right wing.  she wants to help homosexuals and women who have abortions b/c she truly believes they are ipso facto  harming themselves and possibly others.  i wince, but i can't wince her away, b/c she is good, she is a loving, special, caring human being.

i have other born-again friends who don't like abortion or homosexuality, as personal life decisions or life paths, but whom i have seen fight hard against institutions that try to fire or discriminate against such people.  it might be interesting to see jen and della in a discussion about god; they are close in ways, far apart in others.

but what they both have, that i can neither borrow, absorb, nor grasp, is FAITH. again the capital letters, this time mine, not theirs.  i have lower case faith, it flows throughout and around me, and sometimes outside of me and sometimes back in.  it is part of my being, but i think not my foundation.  it's quasi-buddhist as much as anything, but not even that close to a religion.  maybe unitarian. or universalist.  sometimes it comes from my soul, but more from my brain.  sometimes, though rarely, it  allows me visions that help me grapple with pain or crisis.  mostly though, such visions come not at times of extremity, but at times of relative neutrality.  and visions may be the wrong word--more like a knowing, whether visual or sensual or not, through my whole being.

a couple of times, many years ago, such a knowing came to me in the elevator as i was leaving work to meet my  boyfriend. i'm not fond of elevators; it's not where i'd place a sense of eternity.  but i knew, in whatever block of time [which was irrelevant] i knew, that this instant in the elevator had always been, would always be, that it was existence.   a year or so later in that same elevator i literally, visually, saw myself there, as i had been in the first experience, again with no surprise.

but my visions, my knowings, have nothing to do with god or the rules of the bible or anything else. they simply are.  meditation might tell me more, but meditation makes me nervous and brings on anxiety i leave them to come when they choose.

they give me much understanding, but they give me nothing when i'm in the midst of depression.  and this is where i envy jen.  not that i believe for an instant that her depressions are less deep or less painful than mine.  but her GOD really is a foundation that holds her together.  my sort of faith--a combination of the visions and knowings and a large intellectual conviction that what is has always been and will always be in various permutations-- don't come together to rescue me; the dark thick core of dull pain lets nothing good into it, however well i function on the surface.   the core gets more or less thicker or thinner, but its power never lessens.  i think a strong, defined faith might help melt it.

but the trouble is that faith, though not only belief, requires belief. you can't just pick it up at a boutique or a thrift store.  if it's peripatetic and wispy, like mine is, it's useful at other times--but not these.  what i don't believe i can't have faith  in.  i wish i could borrow my friends' faiths, as i might a scarf on a winter night, to return when the storm is over.  but it isn't mine.  I love aspects of it: the baby born again each year to bring innocence into the world; the sorrowing mother who expands her sorrow not only to her son's unavoidable death, but to all of us lesser humans who suffer.  it's all a beautiful mythology.

so the pills are working now; i've stopped wishing to be dead, am able to write, am miles from happy but at least not all about the thick black core that knows it will get me later.

there is a gorgeous saying coming, i think, from christianity----lord, i believe; help my unbelief.  but my 'lord' wears  no face, is intangible; i need to find it different ways than my friends do, and these ways i think will not come through either the pain of depression or the muting of tranquilizers.  sometimes, in good times, i think it has found me---and maybe that's all i really need.

 &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&p.s., a day later.

Looking over this last post,  pretty much one draft, i found a few typos--easy enough to fix-- but also a couple of things worth clarifying that i don't want to add to a piece already written and read. as my friend jim pointed out, all christianity isn't born-again. i add this not as a judgement but simply a fact.  and beyond that, not all faith, or FAITH, are christian.  [i have been lucky enough to have had several muslim students in my classes over the years, and even luckier to have had some good personal conversations with a few of them about religion and its place in their lives. few of  my jewish friends are observant, but certainly judaism has a deep, ancient tradition of religious beliefs that manifest in their own sometimes cohesive, sometimes contradictory forms of faith. and those are only the abrahamic religions.  i grew up catholic, which for better or worse formed  the basis of my own sense of what religious belief is about.

and also, though i recognize myself in others' descriptions of depression, i can speak knowledgeably only about my own. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012


well, it might be interesting as an episode of the coyly named tv drama covert affairs, but only if the liaison led to the murder of other government agents and annie got to solve the crime.  it's almost certainly interesting to general patraeus' wife, and she should probably divorce him.  beyond that, who cares?  the only possibility legitimate reason to force him out of his job-- potential blackmail-- is lost once we all know.

i believe if you're in a traditional marriage, or any other relationship in which sexual exclusivity is part of the understanding, you should be sexually exclusive.  i also believe it's personal business.  i thought that way years ago when i learned more details about my president's orgasmic fluids than i could possibly find interesting.  i would watch the news, push the mute button[i think we had mute buttons back then], and decide that if hilary wanted  me to know what i thought about it all i'd be glad to tell her when she called me--i'd even offer her my couch for a few nights if she left him.  i will extend the same offer to mrs. patraeus now.  otherwise, it's none of my business. or the cia's, or the fbi's.  can't these people find more interesting things to investigate? isn't that what they're paid for?   i must admit to enjoying a politician's humiliation when he's publicly been trying to dictate the sexual morality of the rest of us.  but otherwise--spare me. spare our tax dollars, which can be used for a lot more important things than dumping adulterers from high-profile government jobs. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not So 'Elementary,' My Dear Watson

Elementary, cbs's recent new detective show, purports to be a modernized Sherlock Holmes.  it's not.  or at least, it's no more so than dozens of shows over the years, in which a super-smart sleuth with a less-smart assistant solves crimes, explaining to his chum how he figured it all out.  the problem is that if its title is based on a famous holmes phrase and its characters are named sherlock holmes and doctor watson, you expect more.

i doubt that anyone could really do a modernized holmes [there's a british version, which i haven't seen, set in the 1940s, and maybe it works. i''m skeptical though].  it's so very late victorian/ early edwardian british that other eras and cultures are bound to clash.  if you do try it, it seems that it should have some real relation to the original. arthur conan doyles's holmes is total elegance and intellect; watson total admiration and respect.  but a watson as insecure failure is ludicrous.  even more lludicrous is holmes as scruffy, openly rude, and given to temper tantrums.  the original holmes is a snob, whose rudeness is presented in upper-class wit.  and the gender switch seems pointless, except to add to the reminder that this isn't victorian england.

jonny lee miller is fine for what he does, but what he does isn't holmes.  it's not a bad show for what it is. i think that how much a viewer likes this kind of crime-stopper show will always depend on their response to the main character. i'm not especially drawn to this guy, so it wouldn't be a favorite of mine in any case. but it's certainly watchable, and i can see where others would find him more appealing than i do. it's a good time-slot, 10-11, and when i get back from work thursday nights i like to watch it. if only it wouldn't pretend to be what it isn't.