I may ramble a bit; forgive me. Been thinking that depression screws up your focus – too much or too little. Can’t keep your eyes/brain from moving all over, as if there’s a route out there you can run that will get you safely home. Or the opposite: you can’t get your eyes/brain off one spot, hoping if you stare long enough that spot and everything associated with it will disappear as if it never happened.
The eastern mystics suggest that we learn to “Be here now.” But if we stay fixed (focused) on just that one spot we are really not here; we’re subsumed in that one spot, not aware or accepting of what’s going on around us. Neither is the flitting focus of seeking escape. There we’re nowhere all at once.
Hmm. I’m wearing out my beard trying to pull out an answer and that’s because there can’t be one answer that opens the lock for all. Maybe there’s some advice. I heard these two statements more than 50 years ago, kept them around for when I need them.
“This too shall pass.” A friend had a ring with the first letters from the words in the Hebrew phrase Gam zeh ya’avor גַּם זֶה יַעֲבֹר. Since he was an Orthodox Jew I assumed it was something one of the Sages had said 2000+ years ago. Like Jay Leno said, check your facts and check them again. That was then, now we have Wikipedia! Voilà – turns out that it may have originated with the medieval Persian Sufi poets. Edward FitzGerald, a 19th-century English poet retold it in a fable, “Solomon’s Seal,” in 1852 and Abraham Lincoln used it in a speech in 1859. (Aren’t you glad you asked.)
The next statement I also learned in Hebrew: “Gam zu l’tovah – This too is for good.” It originated with Rabbi Nachum, who lived in northern Israel more than 2000 years ago. He taught that one should see the hand of God in everything that happens; even seemingly bad or challenging obstacles can be used for spiritual growth. Perhaps this has been dummied down to the phrase: “Deal with it,” which sadly often implies “too bad sucker.” But if one follows that shallow and callous advice one misses the main point, that even adversity can provide an opportunity for growth.
Depression is like that. It can feel as if big tablets in stone: N O W have been dropped from a great height on our heads. But I got through all the hurdles of the past to get to this now, now. And somehow knowing that there’s an opportunity, a gem locked inside the stone (this too is for good), and knowing that this will pass, one can refocus on profiting from the struggle – chip away the dross to find the gem inside – it’s the gem that’s inside each of us.
No one says that it’s easy. Too often there’s a lot to get through. Balance. Reach out. You’re not alone. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said “The whole world is like a narrow bridge. Don’t fear, you’ll pass over it safely.”
Here’s a link to a wonderful version on YouTube:
The past is not bad. When I was a kid I remember reading a book about Dumbo, an elephant that wanted to fly. Eventually, he found a magic feather and, grasping it in his trunk, was able to fly. Shouldn’t be hard to find our own magic feather. Stand up straight – you’ll be the shaft. Smiles and random acts of kindness will fill in the individual barbs on the shaft. Together we’ll soon be flying in formation!
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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