28 September 2007
From the Economist
Depressed people move in a mathematically different way from other people.
To a man with a hammer, Mark Twain once said, everything looks like a nail. One hammer that has seen lots of use in recent years is the type of mathematical relationship known as a power-law distribution. Such distributions have been observed in phenomena as diverse as earthquake magnitudes, the sizes of personal fortunes, and the number of visits made to websites. They have not, however, shown up in diagnostic medicine—at least, not until now.
We’ve known for some time that depression is a physical disease. But it’s interesting that new ways are being found to diagnose it. And, from my perspective and personal experience, that their isn’t a separation of the body and mind.
8 September 2007
Since my Dad died in July I’ve been exploring meditation and, to a lesser extent Buddhism. I’ve been trying to meditate every day, searching for a little stillness in the chaos of my monkey mind. Finding a little quiet is becoming more and more appealing as time progresses. However, with my ADD, pop-culture, hummingbird attention span if I can sit still for 5 minutes, I call it a success. Although it takes great effort for me to do so, for it doesn’t feel like success.
I’ve been doing research and reading wherever I can and I’ve found that the road to stillness is more like a delta; many undulating paths that all stream out into the sea. Of course, I want to explore them all… simultaneously. From focusing on my breath to just sitting and paying attention to nothing, only being aware of my surroundings and sounds but not focusing on any of them. To chanting silently or audibly, to focusing on a candle flame to prayer, sometimes all at once. Which, of course, defeats the point.
Om Mani Padme Hum… Om Mani Pame Hum… breath in… look at the candle flame…. breathe Om Mani Padme Hum out… I tried it doing it just before bed, then stopped. I tried doing it whilst walking to work. I try doing it at work. Now I’m trying it in the morning. And I guess that right there is the thing. I’m not actually trying… what I need to remind myself is that I’m practicing. Because meditation is not a performance. There is no audience. Mediation is not a product. There is not something to be judged (although judge it I often do). It is a practice. It is only the experience. I met a new friend recently. He’s a Jesuit working on his masters degree in Divinity in Berkeley. A former Buddhist who still sits Zazen, he teaches meditation and yoga to the homeless. We were talking recently about meditation and how difficult it is to just do nothing. To just sit. “Sit down in the morning and take 10 breaths,” said he. “10 breaths in the morning, every morning. It’ll change your life.” And so I am trying. No, I am practicing. 10 breaths. I am practicing not beating myself up over not being able to sit still. 10 breaths at a time.
5 September 2007
I love blank pages. I can spend hours at art supply stores obsessing over sketchbooks and journals. Picking them up, turning them over, running my fingers across their covers, checking the thickness of the paper. Is it too thin? Is it so thick that only a small number of actual pages make up the collective weight of the thing? Is the paper too bright? Is it bright enough? Blank pages are beautiful. I love picking out large pieces of watercolor paper, or paper to draw on. Large format sketchbooks, small tiny pocket-able notebooks. Lately, expensive Moleskins are a favorite. Small tiny ones with elastic bands and built in folders, or larger very lightweight thin ones. I have seemingly dozens scattered around me, the debris around my life.
I hate blank pages. I have a fear of them.
This fear is so large that even though what I long to do… draw, write, paint, make stuff… the things I have been doing on and off my entire life has become a barrier. A wall of blank paper. A pristine, expansive never ending wall of 100lb cold press bristol.
I need smudges, stains, streaks, tears, blobs or dirt. It makes it easier to start writing, drawing, scribbling, folding, fondling.. it’s freeing. That way, whatever I do will be OK. The paper has already been defiled. It’s no longer perfect, so I’m not ruining it. So I need the mud. I need the dirt. Sometimes I wonder, when I finally do start to manage to write or draw or scribble or paint something… Is it only because that I’ve cried enough that my tears have stained the paper – so that it’s no longer beautiful?