Depression is rage spread thin.

George Santayana Quotes - iPerceptive

George Santayana is a classic case of a man born before his time.  This is a man who was made for Twitter.  His philosophy is spelled out in aphorisms, short and very quotable statements.  They have been quoted but more often misattributed to other people.

Born in Madrid, Dec 16th, 1863 and raised in Ávila to the age of 8 when he emigrated to Boston, the home of the father of his older half siblings.  Yes even in the 19th Century American marriages appear to have been very complicated.

Educated in Harvard, Berlin and Cambridge, UK.  He resigned from a position in Harvard and returned to Spain.  After some travelling he settled into Rome for the last 40 years of his life.

If you are ever stuck for something witty to quote on Twitter just Google his name.  You will find all sorts of gems such as:

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.

Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others.

Habit is stronger than reason.




Depression art.


Art-Deco cartoon of Ethel Hays

Born this day in 1869 Ellis Parker Butler was a full time banker and a part time author.  Between 1931 and 1936 Ethel Hays illustrated his short stories.  She was a well known cartoonist of the 20’s and 30’s and later became a childrens book illustrator.

I pose a question here, and feel free to comment if you have an insight.  If we look at art in the great depression 1930 – 1936 and compare it with art in the recent depression 2008 – 2014 ; can we draw any commonalities?  What are the major themes that emerge?

A Minute; by Ellis Parker Butler

She plucked a blossom fair to see;
upon my coat I let her pin it;
and thus we stood beneath the tree
a minute.

She turned her smiling face to me;
I saw a roguish sweetness in it;
I kissed her once;—it took, maybe,
a minute.

The time was paltry, you’ll agree;
it took but little to begin it;
but since my heart has not been free
a minute.

Call it out

Image result for rain ireland november

Late November and we have hit a relentless spell of misery, dark cold rainy weather.  It is at times like this that the blues can creep in.  People who suffer from depression struggle to get the mental gears engaged.

One thing I have learned over the years is that it is important to engage with your emotion even if the emotion is negative.  When you call out your emotion you can confront it, if you are the confronting type, or you can embrace it if you are not the confrontational type.

When you have the blues its time to listen to the blues.  At least for me.

So here is BB King with an ode to the love of his life:

Lucille; by Donal Clancy

BB holds Her in his arms

when the rain falls cold and wet

he pulls all the right strings

when he sees her fret

one arm around her body

his fingers stroke her neck

& when she sings to BB

he’s ensnared in her net.

The blues are gone,

the blues are gone.

Happy Birthday B. S. Johnson


Born this day 1933.  Died 1973, aged 40.

Depression is a terrible condition.  Suicide a terrible conclusion.  Commercial success a chimera.  This was a man who dragged himself up by the bootstraps and gained himself a university degree.  He was a highly interesting and experimental writer and his legacy is now more recognised than in his lifetime.

If we had a Universal Basic Income would he have revealed even greater potential?  UBI would be especially beneficial in giving artists the leeway to create.

Love-All; by Bryan Stanley Johnson

The decorously informative church
Guide to Sex suggested that any urge
could well be controlled by playing tennis:
and the game provided also “many
harmless opportunities for healthy
social intercourse between the sexes.”

For weeks the drawings in the Guide misled
me as to what went where, but nonetheless
I booked the public courts and learnt the game
with other curious youths of my age:
and later joined a club, to lose six one,
six love, in the first round of the Open.

But the only girl I ever met had
her “energies channelled” far too bloody
“healthily”, and very quickly let me
know that love was merely another means
of saying nil. It was not as though I
became any good at tennis; either.

Happy Birthday Stevie Smith


Sylvia Plath described herself as a “desperate Smith addict” and wrote a letter expressing an interest in meeting Stevie, but first committed suicide.  Smith herself struggled with depression all her life and was a fatalist from a young age.  Abandoned by her father as a small child she grew up in a house of independent feminists, particularly her Aunt Madge who she called “The Lion Aunt”.

At age five she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium.  She resolved herself to death at age seven.  At age eight she was discharged.  Her mother, never in the best of health, passed away when Smith was 16.

Smith was born on this day in 1902 and passed away aged 68 in 1971.


I do not speak; by Stevie Smith

I do not ask for mercy for understanding for peace
And in these heavy days I do not ask for release
I do not ask that suffering shall cease.

I do not pray to God to let me die
To give an ear attentive to my cry
To pause in his marching and not hurry by.

I do not ask for anything I do not speak
I do not question and I do not seek
I used to in the day when I was weak.

Now I am strong and lapped in sorrow
As in a coat of magic mail and borrow
From Time today and care not for tomorrow.


Eskimo Days


Depression is a terrible illness not so much because it renders people sad, with feelings of emptiness and worthlessness to the point of being suicidal.  What is so bad about depression is the lethargy of the mind that blocks the sufferer from taking affirmative action to deal with the condition.  You can fight diseases or cancers, you can defy chronic illnesses and battle to live life on your terms.  But melancholy is entropic drawing away energy, order and purpose.  It prospers by eroding the will.  It is amazing how many sufferers manage to rouse themselves for long enough to end it all by taking their lives.

Taking your life is, after all, an action, and a very final one.  It demands a firm commitment to a purpose.  The pain of depression must be phenomenal to rouse the sufferer to such certain closure.

Sylvia Plath was one such, who wrested with the blackness of the mind.  In her poem, Kindness, she speaks of the two things that kept her alive, her children (two roses) and the Blood Jet of Poetry.

Children and depression go hand in hand for many new mothers.  Imagine the utter sense of being out of your depth that is experienced by any new parent being combined with post-partum depression.  And yet, as Plath attests, often in her work, babies give you a purpose, a powerful impetus to survive and grant them care and protection.  Babies are natures anti-depressants.

And so to the Eskimo Days, when we grow old, and toothless, and can no longer chew raw seal.  Depression in the aged is a cruel taskmaster.  Old people live more in the past, as the weight of their accumulated memories overbalances any future potential.  Depression strips them of their ability to store up new memories, and makes it harder and harder to hold onto the old ones.

When a baby cries because it has dirtied itself we are driven by our natural inclinations to protect the poor cute helpless thing and clean it and look after it.  When an aged crone cries with discomfort it takes people with a very special degree of compassion to empathise with them.  Besides, a smack of a crutch can bring up a nasty welt.

So depression wraps a particularly icy talon round the hearts of the aged.  Those claws cut deep.

Candles; by Sylvia Plath

They are the last romantics, these candles:
Upside-down hearts of light tipping wax fingers,
And the fingers, taken in by their own haloes,
Grown milky, almost clear, like the bodies of saints.
It is touching, the way they’ll ignore

A whole family of prominent objects
Simply to plumb the deeps of an eye
In its hollow of shadows, its fringe of reeds,
And the owner past thirty, no beauty at all.
Daylight would be more judicious,

Giving everybody a fair hearing.
They should have gone out with the balloon flights and the stereopticon.
This is no time for the private point of view.
When I light them, my nostrils prickle.
Their pale, tentative yellows

Drag up false, Edwardian sentiments,
And I remember my maternal grandmother from Vienna.
As a schoolgirl she gave roses to Franz Josef.
The burghers sweated and wept. The children wore white.
And my grandfather moped in the Tyrol,

Imagining himself a headwaiter in America,
Floating in a high-church hush
Among ice buckets, frosty napkins.
These little globes of light are sweet as pears.
Kindly with invalids and mawkish women,

They mollify the bald moon.
Nun-souled, they burn heavenward and never marry.
The eyes of the child I nurse are scarcely open.
In twenty years I shall be retrograde
As these drafty ephemerids.

I watch their spilt tears cloud and dull to pearls.
How shall I tell anything at all
To this infant still in a birth-drowse?
Tonight, like a shawl, the mild light enfolds her,
The shadows stoop over the guests at a christening.

Winter is Coming

Really, it feels like we live in Westeros rather than Ireland.  For the second year in a row spring has not arrived.  This is April 28th and we are still getting frosty mornings.  The hedgerows are only now beginning to leave.  Migrating birds are stuck in France waiting for the weather to pick up before they arrive. What has happened the weather?  Is this the climate change that was predicted, or are we just in a cyclical phase of cold winters and bad summers?

It is the ultimate expression of pathetic fallacy.  As we languish in the sixth straight year of recession the nation limps into another failed spring.  The mood of the nation is perfectly matched by the climate.  And the weather is compounding the woes of the economy.  Farmers have run out of fodder and the spring grass has not arrived.  The government has had to introduce a form of dole for cattle and sheep.  Sales in garden centres are down 25% as the spring planting fever has failed to take hold.  Who would invest in a lawn chair or a barbeque in such weather?

The Sun Bathers; William Carlos Williams

A tramp thawing out
on a doorstep
against an east wall
Nov. 1, 1933:

a young man begrimed
and in an old
army coat
wriggling and scratching

while a fat negress
in a yellow-house window
leans out and yawns

into the fine weather