Monday, August 27, 2012

On Fighting

Any time someone is having a hard time, people always tell you to keep on fighting. This is especially common in dealing with adversity with regards to depression. People try and tell you to buck up, soldier on, and keep on keeping on (whatever the hell that means). 

What they fail to recognize is that people with depression HAVE been soldiering on. They have been fighting themselves every second of every. single. damn. minute. Depending on the severity, every word the hammer out on a keyboard, email they respond to, or time they open their eyes in the morning is a small victory that merits nothing short of a parade. But they don't ask for that because they know it is their own personal demons that they fight, and that they hardly need to fight an outside world that has a hard time sympathizing with a stubbed toe, let alone mental anguish. 

It is a quiet war happening in your office, school, favorite restaurant, church, and anaerobic basket weaving society. Someone there is dealing with it. 

What should you do when dealing with someone else who is depressed? That depends on the person and their level of suffering. And yes, I mean SUFFERING. Agony. All those fun words we like to throw around every time we are a little gassy after a burrito, but actually have real meanings. 

Some guide lines: 
1. Remember that they ARE NOT SAD! 
   People who are depressed are tired, weary, in pain. Sadness is a symptom, not a cause. It is the difference between the weather and the climate. Local weather trends are symptomatic of over all climate patterns, but are not a freak storm does not a climate make. Which brings me to point number...

2. Sometimes, people who are depressed, can seem happy and normal most of the time. 
  That is why some people are surprised when they find out someone is depressed. Never tell them they  were so happy yesterday, today, earlier, all the time.' They know how happy they have been. Depression is an intimate and vulnerable state. Many people who suffer from it have very happy looking defense mechanisms. It is to keep people from saying a lot of the things on this list and brings us to..

3. When they ask for space, give it. 
  Like I said, depression is an intimate and vulnerable state to find yourself in. If someone is depressed and they ask you for space/time/distance/silence, give it. It can take a few minutes to clear out the fog that depression puts in your head and severely skews your emotional responses. This means that when you push people, they can feel trapped, cornered and respond very.. poorly. This can range from open hostility and rage, to an enforced silence that could be permanent (towards you) if you are not careful. 
IMPORTANT: If someone with depression asks you for space, DO NOT MAKE IT ABOUT YOU BY TAKING IT PERSONALLY. Of all the terrible things you can do, this can make things spiral out of control the fastest. 

I will have more on how to deal with depressed people later, but these three things can be damned hard on their own. Try them out and see what you think.

To The Living

It is hard, sometimes, to remember why we get up in the morning. Going to work, earning a paycheck, getting dinner, and then doing it again are enough for some people.

But it hasn't done much for me. It didn't do much when I had a job, and while the financial stability I miss, the  in and out I don't.

It gets so foggy, contentment. In good light it passes for happiness. In bad light it passes for fulfillment. In reality it is neither. It is comfort. A shell to wrap yourself in to stave off the insanity of every day living. A way to find something to point at and say "See, that's OK, right?"

But it isn't even close. It is complacency. It is the poison of good enough.

Car payments, loan settlements, bank trips... all in the pursuit of a future full of stuff. Of things that are nothings.Cars do not write stories and love. Nice toys glitter and dance, but they do not hold and they do not shed tears for our passing.

All of these things are dying without living. They take the place of what is really important so that we don't have to deal with them. We think that it makes things easier, because we do not want to do the hard work.

It is an illusion of safety in a world without any. A seat belt of wishes, crossed fingers, and whispered prayers.

But when the wreck comes, all that is left is The Dying. An empty thing without meaning.

So this is a toast to The Living. To filling one's cup with the things that will fulfill them. With stories and tastes and smells. With songs and loves. With strife and fear and joy and tears.

To those that build supports for the Living, instead of safety.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Piqued Curiosity

Yesterday was an amazing achievement for mankind. The landing of the Curiosity probe on Mars, without a hitch, is a testament for what we can achieve with science and as a people. It also has brought a bunch of folks out of the woodwork to complain about how much money was spent on the project. So in continuing what seems to be turning itself into a series of articles discussing waste, I want to talk about projects like this both as a writer and a scientist. 

First off, any money we spend gathering more knowledge about the universe is about as wasteful as using air to breathe or food to eat. While we could technically live our lives without understanding even our closest neighbors, the same could be said of antibiotics, air conditioning, and the Internet. But all of these things make life a whole hell of a lot better, and the technologies we garner from missions like this only improve life further. 

Now a word from my writer side. Speculative fiction, scifi, and hell even to a degree fantasy all rely on how much we know about the universe. All of these things draw on history at a minimum, and the more rich the history we can draw from, the more fuel that both the writer's imagination and the collective imaginations of your readership have at their disposal. Every mystery opened up by a probe like this, from the mundane instances of rock formation to paradigm shifting revelations about the origins of life are fair game for the writer to explore. 

All in all, achievements like this really show a positive and hopeful side of humanity that has is missing, especially in an election year. We hear all about how horrible our lives are and how X, Y, and Z are destroying life as we know it. But this, this is reality. This is a reminder that there are people out there who put this garbage in its place and accomplish something amazing.

It is difficult to see how anyone can think that such a thing is a waste without also ignoring everything such achievements have given us in the past. Remember that next time someone tries to sell you on how horrible and broken our species is. 

Make Better Choices

While watching a lot of movies and television shows that have come out over the last few years I have noticed a trend that often baffles me. A lot of characters, the ones often described as quirky, obtain the ability to be a rambling, slow motion train wreck of a human being. Every time these characters are on screen we, the viewer, are subjected to an onslaught of awkward rambling that go nowhere and do nothing to develop the character or the story any further.

This sort of short hand happens a lot in television and film due to the constraints (usually on time) that the format demands. But that seems hardly an excuse to stagnate a character in a mire of word salad. This wouldn't be such a problem if it wasn't so damned prolific. I am not a large consumer of television in general, so either I am attracted to shows that tend to have these characters in them or (as seems more likely since I have had this discussion with people who live in front of their televisions) there is a major problem with the state of television writing. I would encourage you to take that with a grain of salt since there is usually a reason for these things becoming popular, namely that it worked spectacularly at least once.

But there is little point in discussing a problem without offering a solution. In a format that relies on trying to cram 5+ characters into a story that lasts at most 45 mins, how do you get across a character that is an utter failure at social grace and has all the charm of an egg rolling off a counter top? Actually, that might be it right there. The feeling they want is that same reaction we all have when we see something horrible about to happen, but are powerless to stop it. Thus the slow motion train wreck illustration above. But the problem still remains that a lot of shows carry that feeling to excess and thus are to awkwardness what J.J. Abrams is to intensity: A perfect note early on that puts you on the edge of your seat, but that goes on so long that your butt falls asleep.

Character traits like this fascinate me a great deal, and I think I may explore more of them in the future.