September 16, 2007

This Half-Full Glass Needs To Be Washed…

Posted in Personal at 2:12 am by Caleb Winn

It occurs to me that although life has moments of unbearable agony and indescribable joy, the vast majority of our time is spent in an in-between state, where we mostly eat, sleep, and wash dishes.  At times our cup runneth over. At times we drink from the cup of bitterness. But most often, we just throw the cup in the dishwasher and spend the evening reading a book or doing a Sudoku puzzle: nothing too exciting, but nothing too tragic, either. 

How we evaluate such evenings is important, since they comprise the vast majority of our experiences. Depression likely has its roots in an inability to accept and enjoy this middle ground. If we expect to live in a constant state of indescribable joy, then the boring routines of life will seem like unbearable agony.  

So the trick, then, is to develop a healthy emotional life. We’ve got to learn to be content even when we are not ridiculously happy. We must learn to embrace routine, and not to cultivate an unrealistic longing for constant bliss.

I suspect that stories and music have a major role to play in the development of our emotional states. Especially in this digital era, it is easy to allow ourselves to be constantly bombarded with emotive media. But allowing our expectations about life to be shaped by romantic comedies or pop musicians is a one-way ticket to disappointment. Some discretion is valuable here. To quote Nick Hornby’s book High Fidelity

It seems to me that if you place music (and books probably, and films, and plays, and anything that makes you feel) at the centre of your being, then you can’t afford to sort out your love life, start to think of it as the finished product. You’ve got to pick at it, keep it alive and in turmoil, you’ve got to pick at it and unravel it until it all comes apart and you’re compelled to start all over again. Maybe we all live life at too high a pitch, those of us who absorb emotional things all day, and as a consequence we can never feel merely content: we have to be unhappy, or ecstatically, head-over-heels happy, and those states are difficult to achieve within a stable, solid relationship. Maybe Al Green is directly responsible for more than I ever realised.’ 

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