23 February 2010

Think Less or See More

I just saw one of my coworkers sitting on a bench in the lobby, staring toward the ground, but starting at nothing. I don't know him well, but he seems to be a smart man. As I walked by, this thought came to me: Depression is a function of the ratio of intellect to vision.

I've always liked the lyric, "I think I'm just scared. I think too much." When I have been depressed, I sometimes wished I could just stop thinking, because it was the thinking that was causing the depression.

An intellectual recognizes the dreariness and hopelessness in life. Some people do not have that sort of intellect. For example, there's a bum who commutes the opposite direction of me every morning. I see him in his blue hoodie and carhart coveralls. He holds both hands on the shopping cart, and limps along, one foot raised up behind him, his crutches tucked beneath the cart. Of course, I'm making some large assumptions, but I understand that there are lots of resources for a man like that to get back on his feet. Meagan tells me that if a person like that wants help, he can get it (especially in Salt Lake, so near the Church). But it's this lack of intellect (as I'm calling it) that keeps him from recognizing his situation as a problem. And, not seeing a problem, he has nothing to solve, and not much to get depressed about. (He always strikes me as being surprisingly content in his big fluffy beard.)

My other coworker makes another nice case study: He just turned 40. He recognizes that he's getting old--that his life is winding down--and this gets him down. Another man might approach that marker obliviously, proving the old adage that ignorance is bliss. Recognizing the problem puts my coworker at a disadvantage to the man who is oblivious. Unless--UNLESS--he lets this recognition move him to the next step...

Vision is the counterbalance to intellect. Intellect lets a man see his problems. Vision lets him react and overcome them. If the bum could see his situation as a problem, vision could then drive him to get help, and then a job and a roof. Intellect reminds the 40-year-old that life is short, but vision could drive him to spend his short lifetime changing the world, instead of playing World of Warcraft.

Again, depression is having an improper balance of intellect and vision.

The solution, then, is either to think less or see more.

(Better to be a happy lunatic than a sad genius. Better still to be a happy genius.)


  1. I think you are right. Men must have hope; the problem is that you can't have hope without faith (and vice versa). Unless someone really believes that they can accomplish the things they envision, they will not only not act upon it, but it may even make them more depressed. One might even say that vision is the intellect expanded. It's a recognition of the way things can be and truly are for some.

    However, I don't believe that ignorance is bliss. There is no happiness without progression; of that I'm sure. And there is no progression without learning. Perhaps recognizing the awfulness of your situation is a sharp cut on the skin; it can be treated. Ignorance is a dull throb that can't be reached. Whatever pain the bum lacks by not realizing his wasted potential is bought at the price of feeling real joy and fulfillment. That's why learning is so important; just because we can't recognize our problems doesn't mean they aren't there. The more you know, the more you can grow!

  2. Interesting thoughts. Sometimes I get depressed because of thinking too much. Strange how that is. For me the best cure is action--like being productive and using time creating something.

  3. I think ignorance can be bliss. But of course, that depends on the situation. The knowledge that comes from overcoming ignorance is often more blissful.

  4. Sometimes it gets really hard to see or we choose not to. I think that's why we have to have friends who know us well enough to help us see what we've forgotten.

  5. relevant quotes perhaps:

    "A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself."

    "What makes life dreary is the want of motive." - T.S. Elliot

  6. that last one was george eliot...a.k.a. mary anne evans


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— J