It’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

Everything has a purpose. Supposedly. According to some philosophies. But I don’t quite buy it.

mosquito
Cartoon bug, because actual bugs are creepy up close.

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.)

pacer
With the optional sport package.

 

And giant headphones?

headphones
THIS IS HOW I EXPERIENCE MUSIC. AM I SHOUTING?

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.

stab
“Scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors...” Oh, and carving knife stabs them all.

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.

flintknapping
97X, bam! The future of rock ‘n’ roll. I’m an excellent driver. Kmart sucks.

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®!

RNLI
Captain’s rules: rescue 20-somethings first, no fatties, and 10s ride up front with him.

And according to some researchers, depression may confer benefits on sufferers those lucky enough to enjoy its rewards.

Seriously? A benefit to depression?

tell me more
I shit you not.

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.

upbeatlady
Gosh, you’re an upbeat lady!

 

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.)

whats your point
Bring it home.

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.

monkey-giving-the-finger

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.

wargames

Imma change my life

 

Snow Skiing Winter Freerider Sports Alpine Ski
If you see me looking like this, I was pushed. Call the paramedics.

Next life, I’ll ski more.

This is partly a confession. You see, I’ve actually had that thought. That precise thought. Recently, in fact.

Next life, I’ll ski more.

That is a direct quote from a part of my brain that is, apparently, not entirely sure about reality or the direction time moves. It surprised me, too. In my defense, I might have been sleepy. (In fact, I wasn’t. But if I hadn’t told you, how would you know?)

 

sleeping-puppy-138304713144O
Next life, I’m gonna backpack through Europe after high school… Unless I wake up and find out I’m a little bitty dog.

Next life, I’ll ski more.

Reality intrudes and reminds me that it is now too late to plan my youth. I won’t see my 20s again. None times. Zero more times.

Yeah, we could still ski, but those days are mostly behind us. Life is filled with stuff we coulda done, but didn’t do. (“Coulda did” if you want to go full redneck.)

Coulda shoulda woulda.

Mad_scientist.svg
Invoking mad scientist clause: barring a youth serum or similar breakthrough (by a brilliant but unhinged scientist, naturally) I’ll never be 20 again. Let’s assume this to be the case, for the sake of argument. Or for any sake you like.

I know why my brain went there. It fits a natural pattern. After all, days repeat: “Tomorrow I’ll finish that job.” (Judges? Possible.) Weeks repeat: “Next weekend, we’ll do something fun.” Also possible. Months and years repeat–we get another bite at those apples: “Next summer, let’s travel.” Totally possible.

But lives, as far as we know, just come in packages of 1.  Single serving.

silo-brown-egg
Contents: 1 egg.

No do-overs. No correcting mistakes. No studying harder for college once you’re out. No training harder for the sports you played as a kid. No eliminating some of the stupid shit you said, out loud, in front of other humans.

Your youth was wasted on the young, and you just now noticed. (You know who you are.)

And no do-over on your career.

In our youth, we let our brains trick us into thinking our careers will be crazy awesome. Frankly, we expect too much. We think our possibilities, our aptitudes, are the same as our future.

astro baseball
I’m gonna be an astronaut. And a baseball player.

Thinking we might could be a pilot or a cowboy or an archaeologist or an inventor or a milkman, we feel, in a way, that we are all of those things. It’s Schrödinger’s career: until we get there, all possible futures are true.

schrodinger_s_cat_by_ivushka90-d8jd4m7
Don’t open the box.

Then, when they don’t all come true, or none of them do, it’s disappointing. Maybe even depressing, depending on how you’re put together. It’s an existential let-down, and the quintessential crisis of midlife. We didn’t arrive where we thought we would, and realize we ain’t a’gonna.

We become aware of the narrowing of our possibilities as time screams by.

Duh. It’s the zipper principle.

zipper
What again?

Like the teeth of an unzipped zipper, stretching wide in either direction, our future encompasses all our possible futures, everything we might be, from horizon to horizon. But every day, every year, we complete another portion of our lives, and zip up our potentialities into actualities, a tiny bit more every moment. Inexorably. Inevitably. Permanently.

The closed-up past stretches out behind us while the gap ahead of us narrows. Our history is written, and our choices are reduced and half-chosen for us as we close in on what future remains to us.

Sometimes we all wonder (just go along with me) about the road not taken… the career not pursued… the risk not accepted. Who knows how different our lives would have turned out if we had done some of those things? How many different lives might we have lived?

bridge
(Water under the bridge.)

No point thinking about it. Done and dusted.

Whew. Deep breath.

deep breath
Gimme a sec. Hold on.

Okay. Here we go.

So, looking ahead, I’m gonna do some stuff. I’m gonna live as much as I can. Maybe not in space, or on a baseball diamond, or even on a ski hill, but I’m gonna do some good stuff. Nahko’s got the right idea:

I need a change, it’s evident
A transformation imminent…

If I make it out alive, I will make a change

I’m not dead yet. I’ve got some life left in me. So I will make a change. And no mad scientist necessary.

Who’s with me?

JEB Mud Run
Everybody up. Keep it going. Let’s see what’s on the other side.