Depression … a New Vision?

This rambling blog post is an attempt to pull my head out of the fog and bring some clarity and meaning to my life. Hell, just to get my typing fingers moving again is all I really need after two weeks in the jungle. This post is not going to have a point, or be very sane for that matter … but that will only affect the poor bored fool who attempts to read and, god forbid, make sense out of this. Remember, this is MY blog, and my own therapy. None of this is for you, so fuck off if you’d rather read about gumbies interfering with my life.

I returned from a two-week trip to Venezuela just over a week ago, and since then, I’ve battled apathy and depression. I have not been psyched to be home or do any work whatsoever. I feel like I’m still a little burned out for the six month crunch of this past winter, when I was essentially working two jobs (writing a book and the editorship) and getting crushed by it.

In Venezuela, I felt as if my senses were awake and firing on new levels. Isn’t that what living life is all about? It was a combination of everything: I tasted the most delicious fruit I’ve ever had, straight off the trees. I drank the most delicious, clean water I’ve ever tasted, filtered straight out of the untouched jungle soil. I slept in the open air every night; it smelled clean and like flowers.

There’s no sense of time there as we think of it. People run their lives based on what the sun and moon are doing, and when the rooster begins to crow–which is every night, around 1 AM. It feels more natural to move at that pace–it’s surprisingly therapeutic. I know realize why I’ve always hated watches, ever since I was a kid. Time is a false idea–watching minutes pass on your wrist makes you paranoid and anxious.

Even the climbing was as raw and natural as the fruits and water. There were no real grades for anything we did. We kept prodding Jose, asking, ‘How hard is this route? How hard is that route?” Etc. He said something to the effect of “Americans are much more concerned about grades, I forgot about that.”

We climbed routes that were never terribly difficult–just good, moderate climbs without numbers attached to them. My favorite climb was Jose’s mile-long traverse along the base of La Guarita. You just grab holds and keep moving sideways. It’s stupid, dumb fun and simple. It made me realize how structured, peremptory and dogmatic high-end sport climbing could be–or at least has been for me–where a route ceases to exist wholly, and instead becomes so totally reduced to a series of mathematical sequences that I had lost my aesthetic sensibilities. First you grab the pinch with the right hand, then you grab the crimp with the left–etc. You think like this too much and you begin to miss the enjoyment of just flowing up a route, onsight, not paying too much attention to the specifics or sequence, but you see the route as a whole.

I can’t really explain this newfound feeling other than I know it has made me a much better climber. For example, yesterday I went out to Rifle–the quintessence of reductionist climbing philosophy–and managed to redpoint a 5.12d I had been on two times over a month ago. The sequence on this climb is intricate and difficult, but when I climbed it yesterday, even though I didn’t remember what holds to grab and in what order, I just flowed up the rock. I was relaxed and took the climb one hold at a time, as it came to me, just like you do when you climb a mile-long traverse in Venezuela. It felt like an onsight, even though it wasn’t. That’s a special feeling that you forget if you spend too much time redpointing, like I probably do.

I talked to my dad on the phone, and told him about the trip. He liked hearing about the giant ants that bit me and gave me hives, and the black bees that infest most cliffs and crawl into your hair when you climb, but I didn’t feel as if I could convey these above feelings accurately to him, which is quite telling about our relationship and who each of us are. He’s unemployed, and going through a rough stretch and desperately looking for work as an architect. He made a comment that suggested he didn’t understand why I, or anyone, would want to go to a place like Venezuela–somewhere dangerous, dirty, foreign and with crazy bugs. I turned the tables on him and said, “Don’t you want to do stuff like that?” Backed into a corner, he said, “Yeah, I guess so,” which I believed, and then he said, “But I can’t go there because I live in the real world.

The comment instantly bugged me, though I let it go, since the unintentional implication, of course, was that my life is somehow not real. I don’t really understand how we’ve reached a point in our society when a majority of us believe that Real Life consists of dressing up in a suit and tie to go sit in an office in some corporate building five days a week, for 15 years at a time before the economy goes down, and your position gets “terminated”–which completely squeezes down on the structure of your life since you’ve caged yourself in life made of material goods that provide nothing but immediate gratification, momentary satisfaction and lasting debt. Then, the ironic and sad thing, is that after the corporate world completely fucks you over, and not to mention makes you feel hallow, insignificant, puny, you spend all of your time fretting about how you can go back for more. That’s “real life” …

After returning from Venezuela, I sat at my desk and looked over our new issue for the first time–I hadn’t seen it yet since I left for Venezuela before it was done. It looks great. We have a new size, and paper weight, and I like it WAY better than the old, old Rolling Stone format we had been running for two years. The issue has more than a few mistakes in it, however, which have been bugging the crap out of me–it looks thrown together, which it probably was. Most people won’t notice or care, however, but that doesn’t bring any relief to this perfectionist. I’ve also been editing the features going into our next issue. The first few days back, sitting at my desk, I have felt hallow and drained. I understand why we say we feel “depressed,” because I literally have felt like my senses, which were so alive and awake just a week ago, are being depressed under a heavy object. My shoulders have begun to curl forward a little more, my spine has already curved into more of a hunch. I feel less human, and my life feels less real.

The sad irony is that I have the best job in the world, and I really can’t complain–even having a job these days should give me something to be extremely happy about. It’s stupid to think about, but I don’t really know why we work the way we do. We feel so smart and educated here in this country, but the truth is we don’t know shit from beans. How many people here know how to grow their own food? Hunt? What’s good to eat and what’s not good to eat? What a fucking pineapple plant looks like? We feel like we’re at the top of the world, but the oldest knowledge of who we are and what we’re capable of has been forgotten. We are on a fine line and it wouldn’t take much to cause this whole thing to collapse.

I don’t really know what’s coming next for me. I do know that something needs to change. Unfortunately, the thing to change will probably just be a compromise of these views in order to justify the perpetuation of my life as per usual. That’s always the easiest change to make.