2020

2020

Feeling things that are not easy to feel is a part of life.

Being worried about things (i.e. "having anxiety") and sad about stuff (i.e. "having depression") are very commonplace affective experiences that are part of a normal life.

Generally speaking, people move in and out of states of being "fine" (baseline, emotionally regulated, normal) and being distressed/anxious/depressed.  These are what we could call mood-swings. We all have mood-swings, but sometimes something happens that makes our mood-swing in a way that is more than two standard deviations away from the mean... These tend to be instances where anxiety/depression becomes something that is potentially less manageable than it is within the context of a typical mood-swing.


Something I believe — Becoming aware of our contingency (of the fact that nothing is certain, that we just act as if things are) is the most common cause of anxiety and depression.

If we become slightly aware of our contingency then the emotional winds pick up enough to shift our affect in the direction of a little more depressed or slightly more anxious. When we become acutely aware of our contingency, of just how fragile our bodies and our lives are, when just how weak our grip on control becomes something we experience, it’s like a strong storm rolling in. The strong winds pick up and quickly move us deeper into the realms of anxiety and/or depression.

The psychoanalyst Lacan had a word he used for the combination of anxiety and depression that comes about when we become aware of the fragility of our bodies, positions, relationships, economies, etc. He called it anguish, the only affect that comes about from a direct experience of the real--the truth of our contingency, the truth of our fragility, the truth of how limited we are in time and space.

What Lacan called anguish comes about when we become more in tune with the human condition. Others have others terms for this, in Japan, it is called Mono now aware (物の哀れ, もののあはれ)  Miguel de Unamuno called it the tragic sense of life, living with the knowledge that our lives will end. James A. Reeves references anguish when writing about the Film Blade Runner 2049, where he said

More than anything, Blade Runner is a story about god, a fever dream about grabbing our creator by the throat and asking, “Why did you make me? And why must I die?”

The year 2020 has made contingency something that is more difficult to repress or ignore, therefore 2020 has been filled with more anguish than in prior years.

There have been so many different events that have put our (mine yours) contingent status as fragile human bodies in our faces.

As I've tried to go about living my day-to-day life during 2020 I've made some small changes to the way I live. Nothing major. Small things that seem to make a difference.

One of the small things I've started to do is to really listen to a lot more ambient music. Prior to 2020, I would listen to ambient from time to time, mainly when grading papers in a space where the talking of other people was distracting. But when I did this I was using ambient music as a way of blocking things out, nowadays I'm using it as a way to tap into things. I do this by putting on a good pair of over-ear headphones and sitting, or laying down, or walking, and really listening to the sounds of the ambient piece I'm listening to.

This has become a way of influencing the overall textures and tones of the head noise that is always playing in the background of my life.