“Happiness comes and goes. It’s enough, and perhaps better, to simply seek contentedness.”
The words came during a conversation on life, and have stayed with me, for decades now, and every once in a while I revisit the notion to test its truth as it relates to my own life. He was right, of course. Happiness is measured in moments, not lifetimes, and if we’re lucky, there are enough of these moments that we find some level of contentedness that is somewhere above zero.
The suicide rate is higher than the murder rate by more than 30%. That’s right. We kill ourselves more readily than we kill each other, and we do a lot of the latter. Though, why we kill each other is a topic for another article. Why we kill ourselves at a rate of 11.3 per 100,000 in population, why nearly 7% of adults suffer from Major depressive disorder in a given year, why one in eight adolescents have clinical depression, those are the questions asked here.
I watched a show recently about thrill seekers, people who jump off cliffs and similar activities. Contrary to the larger-than-life persona which they wore, the show suggested that some, but not necessarily all of these people, suffered from low levels of Dopamine, which is one of the chemicals of the brain which make us feel happy, like everything is going to be okay again. The adrenaline rush of jumping off of high places gifted them with a return to an emotional normal which the rest of us enjoy– but do we?
And what of the rest of us, those who don’t jump off cliffs wearing colorful wing-suits for fun? Others suffering from depression might be more likely to jump without a parachute, if they even felt like climbing a cliff or a bridge to jump. That’s a lot of work, and the jagged stones hurt when climbing. We hurt enough already. There are easier ways to die, dying slowly, without having shared the internalized pain or ever finding an effective remedy, being the most common.
And why are we depressed? Even if not included in the clinically depressed statistics, whatever clinically depressed might actually mean, many are simply sad, plagued by a lingering melancholy which returns in our solitude, measuring happiness in mere fleeting moments. Everything is great, though, fucking wonderful, in fact.
We, as Americans, are rich, filthy rich by comparison to much of the world. People in other parts of the world watch each other cough up poverty’s dry dust to pass the time and make fried protein-patty meals from swarming gnat-like bugs. We have cable TV, dammit. We have fast food for our quick grease and calorie fixes. If we are able to afford it, or if our credit cards aren’t maxed out, we have fancy dinners, movies, massages, parties, and shopping for fabulous, shiny-new stuff in palatial malls.
We have drugs and alcohol to help us forget, or to help us to be social, to help us pretend we aren’t so damned sad. Still, the melancholy returns for many, like the next morning’s hangover. What the fuck is wrong with us? Maybe our money is boring the hell out of us, making us sadder as we’d wished it to fill an unnamed void. Maybe it just isn’t enough to be rich, by comparison.
We feed ourselves constantly, and not just food. We devour love, and religion, ethereal hopeful-hippies who hide in the sky. We consume material things, and state of the art entertainment, and self-help books written by gurus who are also secretly sad, and we already know this; nothing ever fully satisfies.
In a recent conversation, someone had referred to us, we fragile and moody humans, as chemical beings. Maybe she was right. Maybe the still-not-understood-by-science chemical reactions going on in our bodies all day, every day, are to blame. Maybe we have a deficiency of some sort. If we ever figure out the cure for our deficiency, someone should bottle that shit and sell it. Though the money won’t make them happier.
We’re just sad; we can’t figure out why, and we don’t want to talk about what’s eating at us all the damned time. It makes us feel ashamed to feel so sad, often without an apparent reason, even though many others feel the same. Maybe we aren’t as alone as we often feel, and if we only knew, we’d feel less sad.
Okay, so it’s not a poem, but I found this in the rubble of a website I’d abandoned. Sharing it here. Be well.