There are some topics that need very little introduction. Such topics are so common place and so deeply threaded into the human experience and trying to separate coverage of them into well defined subject areas is a bit as if one is trying a bit too much to be textually correct.
Definition of Depression
I have only read one book on depression and it is Andrew Solomon’s “Noon Day Daemon”. Here is the opening salvo:
Chapter 1: Depression
Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one’s self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. Love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.
Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.
Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.
Mother Theresa – “Come be my light”
Many years ago I was privileged to hear a Sunday Sermon delivered by a psychologist.
In that sermon he used Mother Theresa’s letters to bring home the depths of depression in ordinary and not so ordinary lives.
Here is James Martin’s New York Time piece:
THE stunning revelations contained in a new book, which show that Mother Teresa doubted God’s existence, will delight her detractors and confuse her admirers. Or is it the other way around?
The private journals and letters of the woman now known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta will be released next month as “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,” and some excerpts have been published in Time magazine. The pious title of the book, however, is misleading. Most of its pages reveal not the serene meditations of a Catholic sister confident in her belief, but the agonized words of a person confronting a terrifying period of darkness that lasted for decades.
“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss,” she wrote in 1959, “of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing.” According to the book, this inner turmoil, known by only a handful of her closest colleagues, lasted until her death in 1997.
Gleeful detractors may point to this as yet another example of the hypocrisy of organized religion. The woman widely known in her lifetime as a “living saint” apparently didn’t even believe in God.
It was not always so. In 1946, Mother Teresa, then 36, was hard at work in a girls school in Calcutta when she fell ill. On a train ride en route to some rest in Darjeeling, she had heard what she would later call a “voice” asking her to work with the poorest of the poor, and experienced a profound sense of God’s presence.
A few years later, however, after founding the Missionaries of Charity and beginning her work with the poor, darkness descended on her inner life. In 1957, she wrote to the archbishop of Calcutta about her struggles, saying, “I find no words to express the depths of the darkness.”
But to conclude that Mother Teresa was a crypto-atheist is to misread both the woman and the experience that she was forced to undergo.
Even the most sophisticated believers sometimes believe that the saints enjoyed a stress-free spiritual life — suffering little personal doubt. For many saints this is accurate: St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century author of “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” said that he never went more than 15 minutes without being aware of God’s presence. Yet the opposite experience is so common it even has a name. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence.
During her final illness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun who is now widely revered as “The Little Flower,” faced a similar trial, which seemed to center on doubts about whether anything awaited her after death. “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into,” she said to the sisters in her convent. But Mother Teresa’s “dark night” was of a different magnitude, lasting for decades. It is almost unparalleled in the lives of the saints.
In time, with the aid of the priest who acted as her spiritual director, Mother Teresa concluded that these painful experiences could help her identify not only with the abandonment that Jesus Christ felt during the crucifixion, but also with the abandonment that the poor faced daily. In this way she hoped to enter, in her words, the “dark holes” of the lives of the people with whom she worked. Paradoxically, then, Mother Teresa’s doubt may have contributed to the efficacy of one of the more notable faith-based initiatives of the last century.
Few of us, even the most devout believers, are willing to leave everything behind to serve the poor. Consequently, Mother Teresa’s work can seem far removed from our daily lives. Yet in its relentless and even obsessive questioning, her life intersects with that of the modern atheist and agnostic. “If I ever become a saint,” she wrote, “I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ ”
Mother Teresa’s ministry with the poor won her the Nobel Prize and the admiration of a believing world. Her ministry to a doubting modern world may have just begun.
An in-depth read of spiritual books will illuminate the fact that depression is part of the human experience and thus anyone who has an interest in human beings and their well being should familiarize self with the sincerity of depression; both introspectively and otherwise.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist, yes the same John whom Jesus said “there is no one greater born of a woman“, sat in prison and doubted.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
1st Kings 19 1-4
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
Last weekend my brothers and I hung out. We spoke a bit about Moses. Moses earned one of the most priceless commendation in all of the scriptures:
Numbers 12 6-8
he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.
With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
Yet, later on it appears that Moses erred a bit.
Carlos A. Bechara’s fresh and insightful take on Moses and Aaron’s actions as laid out in Numbers 20 is worthy of a good read.
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WILLIE X. LIN, student in the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis
Remember to take some time away from campus — from the demands of schoolwork and the trappings of the college social life. Explore the town you’re living in. Meet people who are not professors or fellow students. If you spend all of your time on school grounds, then it becomes too easy for the criticism from an occasional unkind professor or the conflict with a roommate to take on a monstrous scale. And to let that happen is to suffer from a mistake of emphasis; college should be a part of, but not the entire scope of, your existence for the next few years.
In Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” characters are troubled and traumatized by their inability to maintain a proper “sense of proportion”; ordinary tasks — life itself, for one of the characters — become outsized and unmanageable.
My pastor likes to say that he has too much respect for many in the church to give an advice. I share that reticent; especially in an area such as weighty as this.
- Andrew Solomon
- Excerpt – Noonday daemon
- The Noonday demon – An atlas of depression – Quotes
- A Saint’s Dark Night By JAMES MARTIN – August 29, 2007
John the Baptist
- Even John the Baptist doubted
- The crisis of Elijah
- 1 Kings 19 – God Encourages Discouraged Elijah ( Enduringword.com )
- Exploring the Sin of Moses and Aaron
- The Grumbling of Men and the Grace of God (Exodus 17:1-7)
- Numbers 20
- Ditch Your Laptop, Dump Your Boyfriend