Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Bark: A disease of the soul

In The Brooklyn Follies, one of Paul Auster's characters describes writing as a disease, or "an influenza of the spirit"; when I read that on holiday this summer in Norway, it struck a real chord with me, and wondered if I'm not afflicted with a similar disease of the soul.

Perhaps I shouldn't have watched The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive last night, because maybe ignorance really is bliss. Far too much of what Stephen Fry and the other bipolars in the programme were describing felt far too familiar to me to be comfortable. I've always felt that my personality has had a manic depressive edge to it - my recent enthusiasm for wanting to grab hold of my life and do what I feel I want to do, offset by crushing ennui and the sensation that life simply spirals out of control (such as going way over my overdraft limit by having so many holidays crammed into such a short space of time, followed by the electric cooker deciding to stop working, just when I don't have the money to buy a new one).

I seem to be going through a bit of an existential crisis lately. Or maybe I'm just going slowly fucking insane. I really don't know what's wrong with me at the moment. I know I'm not happy with my life as it is right now, and I'm not happy with myself, either. I picked up a throat bug coming back from Seattle, and it's been lingering for over a week. When I'm not feeling well, I struggle to work up the enthusiasm to get out of bed. Today was a good case in point. Despite having a whole load of really important work to do - work which needs to be done quickly because my project manager is getting heat from his bosses about it - I couldn't muster the energy to scrape myself out of bed until well after lunchtime. Maybe it was because I was ill and not feeling well, or maybe because it was because I didn't care. I'm struggling to be able to tell the difference anymore.

Fleur's out tonight at a "Body Shop party" (that's where you look at cosmetics, not hammer out a wing panel on a Ford Escort), meaning that I have free reign to eat and drink what I like, but I couldn't even be bothered scraping up enough enthusiasm to get an essentially guilt-free Chinese takeaway, given that the cooker's on the blink (which, if you know my love for Chinese food, is incredible). I haven't eaten all day, and I really don't care.

I'm not even sure why I'm writing this. I'm not expecting answers or solutions - maybe I just want to express it - scream from the virtual rooftops just to let it out; like that scene in Garden State where Zach Braff, Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard are screaming into the abyss in the rain.

Maybe it's just a case of having an overly analytical mind and too much information. How can you *not* get depressed when you're told that the tipping point for climate change may be less than ten years away, and you've still got governments unable to admit that it's a problem at all? Perhaps that's just a natural reaction.

But is it natural to get the urge to break out an assault rifle and rampage with it around your local supermarket, just because you can't bear being in such a confined space with all that seething humanity? Is it natural to want to steer your car into a tree at 80 miles per hour, just because you're curious to know what it would feel like? Or is it natural to want to jump off a bridge into the Thames to see how long it would take you to drown, or to find out whether you'd really have a heart attack from hitting such a large mass of cold water?

Is it natural to wonder who would *really* care if you got hit by a bus, lightning or a meteorite first thing tomorrow morning? If I were to be utterly erased from existence tomorrow, who would it matter to? Offhand, I can think of maybe three people. Likewise, what would I leave behind? I'm not having kids, I'm not building some kind of dynasty here - all I have is what remains of the life I have to make some kind of mark that matters to me, and potentially to the world. I'm not having delusions of grandeur or chasing fame - I just want my life to have counted for *something* - something more tangible and important than having put a couple of cents on some massive, faceless corporation's share price.

Objectively, you might think I've got a good life. I have a secure job, a decent income, a home, a car, a stable relationship, and even a hobby that allows me to write freelance and make a bit of extra cash now and again. Compared to living in abject poverty in central Africa, even I can admit you've got a point. But subjectively, I know that this, ultimately, doesn't count for shit. We've got a world tearing itself apart over resources that are destroying the environment we all live in, the cost of living spiralling beyond affordability, governments that prize the possession of power over serving the very people that gave it to them, and religious leaders who can't even quote a centuries-old text without starting a holy war.

I'm torn between despair for the world and the megalomania of thinking that I could solve it all if only they'd put *me* in charge for a couple of years. Humanity has become a victim of its own success. Humanity's ingenuity managed to put it at the top of the natural food chain, but its conceit that it could do a better job than Nature will not only be the planet's undoing, but its own as well. Humans weren't evolved to live in such proximity, in such density, or in such diversity. And now we're paying the price. People fear what they don't understand, and by bringing such diversity into such close proximity (through technology - i.e. the internet, air travel, etc) it's little wonder that we live in a world of fear and intolerance. And I can only see there being one ending - and that's in flames, not humanity riding off into the sunset over the intergalactic horizon, like a techno-John Wayne...

Forgive me, I'm rambling. No, I'm not drunk, but I am working on it.

Maybe I'm insane. Maybe I need help. Or maybe I'm the only sane person in a world going mad. Who can tell the difference anymore? And does it really matter anymore, anyway?
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