JAMES RAU — A sizeable portion of people in the United States can almost always say that they are or have recently been depressed.
For some people, like me, that question can be answered with a “yes” nearly year-round. But the question I propose is, is that normal? Are these kinds of people that we see ourselves as seen as normal to the rest of society?
The World Health Organization defines depression as: “a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, [and] loss of interest or pleasure.” Despite the WHO’s definition to claim that it is a psychological disease, I like to think of it as an inherent condition, given to those who are too intelligent to believe in a common faith such as Christianity or Islam.
To those that have seen the show Bojack Horseman, a TV show on Netflix ripe with thought-provoking philosophy and depressing subjects, there is definitely a connection to be drawn.
There is a quote that the main character, Bojack, makes in the first episode where he sees his career rival in a restaurant. He sees how happy he is, and then looks at himself, and then he claims that his rival is “so stupid he doesn’t realize how miserable he should be. I envy that.”
It simply can not be possible that our species has reached some sort of peak on a mental capacity with respect to this depression curve, and now people are finally starting to feel that way. But how can we know that a product of our achievements as a species has not negatively affected our health?
Climate change is a product of our achievements in the industrial revolution; could it be possible that our mental capacity has evaluated what French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre referred to as the Absurd? To people who have not taken any philosophy courses, the Absurd is the contradiction between human beings innate tendency to strive for meaning from the universe, and the universe’s irreconcilable silence. Perhaps our brains have started to comprehend this and have come to some sort of conclusion based upon it.
If my hypothesis is true, then some portions of humanity are indeed reaching the edge of an intelligence-depression cliff, and jumping off would be certain death.
So what can we do to stop this? Again looking toward philosophy, contemporary philosopher Susan Wolf’s work on Meaning in Life, gives us some means to refute Sartre’s definition of the absurd. She provides three notions that can take one’s mind away from nihilism and existentialism. Relationships with people and organizations, passion for your work (such as finding a job that your find enjoyable) and lastly a combination of the two: strong relationships while also finding your passion within.
So maybe our species has some hope after all in combating this depression-filled fate.
James Rau ‘22 is a physics major from McLean, Virginia.