Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Letter to a Friend, April 25th, 2007 (excerpt)

I am reading a book right now (mostly finished actually) about Lincoln's "Melancholy" or depression, and one of the significant points the author makes (in my opinion) is that a significant part of the origin of Lincoln's depression is the fact that he had a keenly intelligent, penetrating mind and awareness of things, which served to make him feel separated from his contemporaries, and to also frequently feel powerless in the face of what he called "Fate" (or Destiny).

I can definitely relate to that. Part of why very intelligent people are often such pessimists (or often depressed) is that very fact that they are aware of so much more than most people will ever be capable of even imagining (much less comprehending)!

Not only does this serve to keep us forever apart from most other 'ordinary' people, but the painfully realistic (and grim) view of life and this world which we perceive tends greatly to make us fatalistic and to fuel our depression. Several great writers have written about this--including Thomas Mann (1875-1955) who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929 (which infuriated Hitler after he came to power four years later).

But the real question is: where is the place for people like that in today's competitive 'business' world? That world really does not seem to care, or at least, when it does, it seems to care only to the extent that it usually perceives people like myself as grave threats, needing to be swiftly and ruthlessly exterminated (or rendered powerless) for the good of society.

You think perhaps that I exaggerate. I assure you that I do not. British existentialist writer and thinker Colin Wilson (whom I already quoted in the excerpt included in the newsletter), said exactly that, in his 1957 work from which I quoted, Religion and the Rebel. And from my own personal experience in my life, I unfortunately have to largely agree with him.

Great intelligence is not always a good thing to be desired. ... If you only knew where it would end up leading you if you had it. .... "Aye, there's the rub!" (quoting Shakespeare again.)

If I had my choice (I sometimes think, half seriously) I would eagerly trade this profound (and painful) awareness and learning for the "bliss of the commonplace", as one of Mann's English translators once rendered his phrase.

There is thus much truth to the old oft-quoted phrase "ignorance is bliss". ...
Is it any wonder, then, that occasionally such people "fall off their rockers" (so to speak), as Lincoln repeatedly did throughout his life, and as Nietzsche finally, tragically did near the end of his?

Things that make you go "Hmmm". ...

Food for some serious thought here. ...