October 2022 – Love Letters to Humanity
I recently tossed a request out to a diverse group of humans I know, asking them for questions they might have about all things depression. There were a lot of questions, so I’ll be writing to them over the next few months. The first one I picked out was, “Why is it important to have a list of ‘Love Letters to Humanity’ for games, movies, songs, art, etc., in terms of Depression/Anxiety?” That there is a very interesting question, which I attempt to address in the article below.
May your respective Falls be starting well, and may you both enjoy the change in season (such as they are in your part of the world) and reflect on the impermanence (that most fundamental of life’s qualities) that the falling leaves and increasing chill implies.
Love Letters to Humanity
Listing out the proofs of Humanity’s lovability
We can think of depression as a ledger whose title is, “Proof that Life is Grim”, which lists the supposed ironclad, incontrovertible examples of why Life, and your life, is just one big smear of grimness. Depression presents this ledger as if it were a neutral observer, as if it were just noting the facts, objective as observing the weather. Like this it plays a kind of shell game, one where if you play by the given rules, you will always lose. Thus, much of healing depression has to do with learning the game, and training yourself, like someone addicted to gambling, to resist the urge to play.
Among the various useful tools is keeping an ongoing “Love Letters to Humanity” list, in which you record all the things in your experience of life that prove to your own mind that Life and Humanity is worthy of being a Beloved (for more on the “Beloved”, see here). We don’t write love letters to a neighbor, or random strangers, but to those worthy of our love. That is, our “Beloveds”, which come in all forms and types, not just human.
So, this is a list of those things produced by your fellow human beings that contradict the grim conclusion of depression that Life (or at least your personal version of it) is not worth or deserving of loving. These are human productions which represent humans reflecting back on the lovability of humanity. I.e., “love letters”. Anything that that feels to you like such a declaration of love for a lovable humanity goes down on this list, anything that proves to you that Life and Humanity are worthy.
You don’t have to defend your list to others, or to yourself, or to depression; the point is that for your own idiosyncratic self, the work proves the redeemability of Life and Humans (which, of course, includes you). The reason for an ongoing list is that, when depressed, it’s going to be hard to locate anything for your list. However, going back and looking at the one you wrote in your non-depressed state can serve as a pry bar out of the grimness. Not guaranteed, but it can help.
Try it as an exercise (when you’re not in a depressed state), with the following categories (you can go as far afield as you want, e.g., “Beloved shoes”, etc.), with as many Beloveds that you can think of.
Art (in different categories: fine art, sculpture, crafts, etc.)
Music (bands, songs)
TV (streaming, etc., since it’s not clear what “TV” means anymore)
So, for example, some of those on my list are:
Art: abstract expressionism (especially Rothko)
Architecture: art deco; Gaudi
Movies: Everything Everywhere All at Once; Swiss Army Man; the Jackass films
Music: Jack White; Bebop
Politics/political organizations: reasonstobecheerful.world
TV: Sense 8; Deadwood; John from Cincinnati
Notice that I’m not explaining them, although I suppose I could go into my own idiosyncratic logic for why I think those are celebrations of Humanity (and Life). But that’s not necessary, just that the items you identify feel to you like objective proof of humanity being redeemable.
This is your tangible argument against the logic of depression, which is essentially that nothing is worthwhile and everything is futile. The “Love Letters” is a riposte to depression, an ongoing answer to depression’s argument in favor of grimness and bleakness. It’s useful, when getting this line from depression, to be able to simply point at beauty and goodness and say, “These exist.” That’s what this list is for.