Everything has a purpose. Supposedly. According to some philosophies. But I don’t quite buy it.
What good are mosquitos? Whose idea were they? Why do they even exist?
Why do we have nightmares?
And deadly viruses?
And AMC Pacers? (Yeah, I went there. I’m not afraid to go to 1975 for my references.)
And giant headphones?
Some of the worst shit in the world still exists today because it has sometimes been a good thing. Like knives–so injurious and stabby in some instances, but useful, even indispensable, in others.
Despite the downside of a sharp edge and pointy bits, we’re not doing without our knives. We’ve long since voted on the issue. You can’t cut a steak with a spoon, can you?
So there you go. You’re safe for now, knives.
How about autism? That’s a crappy deal. Why does it exist?
Some research suggests that autism is evolutionarily adaptive, leading to some advantages. Instead of memorizing train schedules or putting together impossible puzzles, autistic hunter-gatherers in an earlier age might have mastered the meticulous details of flint knapping or the calls and signs of every animal and bird in the environment. Or the like.
All right, I’ll give you that one. I get it. But how do you explain genetic diseases, like sickle-cell anemia? Any positive explanation behind that one?
As it turns out, carrying one copy of the sickle-cell anemia gene can stave off certain kinds of malaria. Malaria! Yay! That’s why the gene persists in certain populations, like those in Sub-Saharan Africa: to afford protection from a deadly disease. Some in the community may get malaria, but not everyone–not those with one copy of the gene.
But if you get two copies of the gene–one from each parent–you get sickle-cell anemia. Not yay. Antiyay. Painful and deadly and tragic.
But that’s how genetics works. It hedges its bets. It sacrifices some of us so that others survive. It’s a merciless bouncer at the bar of life, or a real-life version of Lifeboat, the Values Clarification Game®!
And according to some researchers, depression may confer benefits on
sufferers those lucky enough to enjoy its rewards.
Seriously? A benefit to depression?
From Scientific American:
“Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.”
It goes on to list the benefits of depression–you’ve got social isolation to free up your time and your thoughts; you have no distraction in the form of “doing fun things;” and you enjoy unrelenting focus on whatever you’re thinking about. These are all positives, remember. They suggest that such thinking leads to useful solutions and positive results for the community.
So, good news! I guess I was looking at this thing all wrong. You’ve really turned me around here.
I guess it’s not a curse.
Yeah, I’ve spent some quality time thinking intensely about things; ruminating, analyzing, dwelling on complex problems, just like they said. Like other depression-blessed individuals, I have contributed to society by carefully considering important questions, like these:
- Why do I suck, precisely? In what ways, and in what dimensions? (Please, be specific. And detailed. Repetition is a plus. Reeeaaally get in there.)
- Why am I destined to fail in everything I attempt? And how badly? And why do I deserve it so very very much?
- Why is everyone else so much better at everything? Why is everything so much easier for them? Is this a “children of a lesser god” sort of situation?
- If nothing is pleasurable in any way, why do any of it? Corollary: is eating all that important?
- And finally: How much can pain hurt? And how long is “always”?
I don’t remember finding any helpful answers at the end of those turdwalks. But I did spend a lot of time on them once. Lots and lots. Years, in fact, to some degree or another, made up of hard months made up of ugly weeks made up of days made up of long, long hours… most of which are behind me, thankfully, but not quite all. (Apparently.)
The point: evolution designed humans so that some of us can fall into depression; this is a feature of human evolution, and not a bug. It has its purpose. Some of us are converted into spiritual zombies for a portion of our lives, and it’s a total crap deal, but it is for the greater good.
Depression is good. It works.
Well, evolution can go fuck itself.
Or the human genome can. Or… whoever or whatever it is that is pulling the strings. (It’d be a lot easier to get my revenge if I knew who to blame.)
I’m not here to grease the skids for society, solving some thorny emotional problems alone in my emo garret, spinning my misery into someone else’s gold. I’m here to have my own happy life.
I’m not your monkey, evolution. It’s my life.
To be honest, I did learn one thing from all that stinkin’ thinkin’. I arrived at a Wargames kind of lesson about deep rumination and where it leads.
I learned that the only way to win is not to play.