I suffer from depression. I say this not to gain sympathy, but just as a point of reference. It is not the sort of thing that should gain sympathy, but it is a kind of crippling handicap the mind places upon itself, and it’s very real and it’s very not real at the same time. Some people don’t see it at all. Some see it, but don’t think it’s really crippling like an amputation or being paraplegic. I can assure you. In some ways I’ve easily lost ten or twenty years of what some might call a healthy social life, because I’ve learned to minimize my social interactions with others and keep people at a safe distance. Why? Because in the end it was better to just hurt myself as opposed to hurting people I care about.
There are days when nothing can be done about it. People might say, “well why don’t you just get over yourself and shrug it off?” But you can’t. Those who can, don’t suffer from depression, so I suppose they can’t understand.
This doesn’t bother me as much as it once did. It used to be very crippling. I’m getting better, but I’ve also made habits and cultivated a lifestyle that still keeps me from being as outgoing and extroverted as I once pretended to be. I’m middle aged now. The damage has already been done. I have made choices I can’t undo. The best I can do now is mitigate and minimize the damage. I can’t magically make all the regrets and ill behavior go away. I can only endeavor to not make the same mistakes in the future.
I have to scoff and laugh now at Believers who try to convince me their god is the panacea of what ails me, cuz I believed in a god for forty years and suffered far greater depression while under that illusion than i do now. In fact, the world makes a lot more sense now than it used to make. I have learned to accept that rational objective reality is something separate from the subjective perception of reality that each person experiences separately. This discovery I made for myself back in 2009 has alleviated a great deal of my depression. While it hasn’t removed the depression, this realization has made my emotional reactions to my own perception much more manageable.
Even as a child, I was experiencing objective reality in a subjective manner. Indeed, it’s impossible for the human body and mind to experience objective reality in any other way, so we are never without this overlay we place upon our own perception.
All my life I was aware there was something wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The beliefs that were placed upon me did not coincide with actual reality. However, I was not aware for the first forty years of my life, at least not in a concrete and fundamental way, that what is actually out there and what I experience are two different things. Oftentimes they appear identical, so when one diverges from the other, I’d get confused and frustrated and I couldn’t understand why.
It was like double vision, not of the eyes, but of the mind.
I cite the following purely as one of many possible examples: A god is supposed to be there, or so you are told, and if you pray for something then it’s supposed to happen. Only, you pray and it doesn’t happen. Well that’s just cuz you didn’t pray hard enough, or you didn’t pray just the right way, or god heard your prayer and the answer was no, or the lord works in mysterious ways and your prayer will be answered later, long after it really matters either way, like in the hereafter for example.
When you pray, there’s no god outside your head to hear your prayer. The god you think exists is a part of your subjective perception of reality which only exists inside your head, and it’s not actually something outside your head in objective reality. Your god knows everything you know cuz it uses your brain to think. Which is why it knows things about you that only you would know. So when you pray for something and it doesn’t happen, that’s because the god inside your subjective perception has no power in actual objective reality. Your god is imaginary. Your subjective perception of reality differs from actual objective reality, and you should change your subjective perception that is inside your head to better coincide with actual objective reality. So you don’t sound so barking mad.
Well. That makes a lot more sense than a magic sky daddy, doesn’t it?
Either what’s inside your head is real, or what’s outside your head is real. Most people don’t think about it, most of us don’t see the difference. We think it’s the same thing. It is not. We look at the world and we think what we see is real. That’s not always the case.
I looked for a video about optical illusions to make my point, but found this from the film The Matrix. A bit melodramatic but it illustrates my point too. I don’t mean we’re actually in The Matrix, but you make a matrix for yourself, and you have had that matrix made for you, your entire life.
The beliefs that you hold dear, be they of a theology or a science, or the notion that science is a theology or that theology is a science, or any other notion; be they of aliens or ghosts or demons or the mysteries of the quantum world or the wonders of astrophysics, these beliefs construct a framework inside your head through which you perceive actual objective reality. How can you tell what is real? You really can’t. Not totally, cuz everything you experience is only a simulacrum of what’s really real.
For example, your experience is always at least a fraction of a second from what is real.
Think that’s wild? What you think is red may not be what i think is red. We may be looking at the same exact thing but we could be experiencing it in subtle, or dramatically different ways.
I could cite several other examples and dig up youtube videos all day, but I’m still illustrating the same general point. What we perceive as reality is not actual reality. Further, even if we compare notes and try to accept commonalities between our experiences to find actual reality, we still fall short of any goal of true unadulterated actual reality experience.
There’s this Buddhist parable called The Elephant And The Blind Men.
A quick summary for those of you not able (or too lazy) to watch YouTube videos. A great teacher called a Raja takes his blind students to experience an elephant. He doesn’t tell them what they are about to “see” (or sense, for those of you who will tell me in the comments below that blind people can’t see anything), preferring to allow them to use their own senses to experience the animal for itself and decide for themselves what an elephant is. One blind student touches the trunk of the great beast. A second blind man the tusks. Another examines one of its feet. Yet another the back of the elephant or the tail. Each blind person experiences the same elephant, but they each describe it in remarkably different ways.
Then the blind people start to quarrel with one another. They have experienced this creature with their own hands. Each believes himself to be an authority on what an elephant is. However, all of them were blind, these men of Industan, each inclined to learning, but not from each other.
Then the Raja steps in and tells them that each of them have only experienced a part of the truth. Each of them were partly illuminated with knowledge and experience, but all of them were also incorrect. The question I have when I see this story, is who’s the asshole who thinks he knows what’s real? Who is the Raja? And what does the teacher represent? Metaphorically is it the Buddha? Is it some other anointed one? A Savior? A Christ? No. The Raja is just another person and tho he has two eyes while the blind men have none, what he perceives is also limited. For example, he may have no knowledge of chemistry and physics and genetics. The Raja may be oblivious to the fact that an elephant is a mammal just like human beings and apes and many other warm blooded creatures. He may not know that similar cellular building blocks which make up human beings, which we call DNA, is also found in elephants. While not identical, on a near molecular level we have much in common. In fact we’re carbon based lifeforms. On an evolutionary family tree, we’re related to elephants. Not as closely as other Great Apes of course, but we share more in common with elephants than we do amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects or plant life. The Great Raja is blind to these facts, as are pretty much anyone who embraces a belief system over and above scientific discovery.
Nowadays what makes me depressed is not this overlay of fantasy inside my head versus the actual reality that I’m forever just shy of ever achieving (even if i were to spend a lifetime up on a mountain meditating i’d never experience true “enlightenment” cuz I’m just a meatbag). In fact, this realization of the disassociation with reality brings me no end of entertainment and joy. It’s part of why I’m an absurdist.
What seems to depress me nowadays is that I’m hopelessly and helplessly trapped on a planet filled with people who still can’t see there’s a difference between what we experience as reality and what is actual reality. So I’m trapped on a planet filled with people making decisions that sometimes affect me either directly or indirectly, based on very false information, and they are completely oblivious to the mistakes they are making, cuz they can’t tell what they think is real from what actually is.
Anyone who votes for example, assuming their god inside their head is the same one inside the heads of all those other people. And they listen to other people who claim to be authorities on their One True Gods. This is like a blind man climbing up an elephant thinking it’s just like a tree, and then being surprised when the tree he’s climbing starts moving away from the other blind men and charging into the woods.
Sometimes these foolish people using subjective reality to affect each other (and me) and believing they have the power to alter actual objective reality in any way that has merit or value, do things that entertain me, make me laugh, but other times they do things that are insensitive and harsh and wrong and evil and dangerous, and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.
Except maybe never buy ivory ever, and chastise people who do, but that doesn’t make me feel better. That’s just a drop in the bucket.