Monday, July 15, 2013

David Foster Wallace and Walker Percy...

Wallace himself once asked this very Percy-like question:
Why are we – and by 'we' I mean people like you and me: mostly white, upper middle class or upper class, obscenely well educated, doing really interesting jobs, sitting in really expensive chairs, watching the best, you know, watching the most sophisticated electronic equipment money can buy – why do we feel so empty and unhappy?
A great question. Is the answer in therapy, medication, attitude, Oprah-Choprah spirituality, getting saved, finding religion, self-help techniques, Dr. Oz's good advice, satisfying needs, or indulging wants? In some fundamental way, might that emptiness really come down to something bigger? Could it be that our art, education, politics, culture, and religion all revolve around a growing philosophical chasm?


Walker Percy - whose father and father's father both committed suicide with a shotgun - had this to say about the matter of suicide and depression in Lost in the Cosmos:

Suppose you are depressed. You may be mildly or seriously depressed, clinically depressed, or suicidal. What do you usually do? Or what does one do with you? Do nothing or something. If something, what is done is always based on the premise that something is wrong with you and therefore it should be remedied. You are treated. You apply to friend, counselor, physician, minister, group. You take a trip, take anti-depressant drugs, change jobs, change wife or husband or "sexual partner."

Now, call into question the unspoken assumption: something is wrong with you. Like Copernicus and Einstein, turn the universe upside down and begin with a new assumption.

Assume that you are quite right. You are depressed because you have every reason to be depressed. No member of the other two million species which inhabit the earth - and who are luckily exempt from depression - would fail to be depressed if it lived the life you lead. You live in a deranged age - more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.

Begin with the reverse hypothesis, like Copernicus and Einstein. You are depressed because you should be. You are entitled to your depression. In fact, you'd be deranged if you were not depressed. Consider the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved for once and all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these.
Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.”   ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Post Modernist relativism -- the new atheism -- has no "there" there.

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