Tuesday, February 12, 2008

NPR: Arguing the Upside of Being Down

All Things Considered, February 11, 2008 · Author Eric G. Wilson has come to realize he was born to the blues, and he has made peace with his melancholy state.

But it took some time, as he writes in his new book, a polemic titled Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy.

At the behest of well-meaning friends, I have purchased books on how to be happy. I have tried to turn my chronic scowl into a bright smile. I have attempted to become more active, to get away from my dark house and away from my somber books and participate in the world of meaningful action. … I have contemplated getting a dog. I have started eating salads. I have tried to discipline myself in nodding knowingly. … I have undertaken yoga. I have stopped yoga and gone into tai chi. I have thought of going to psychiatrists and getting some drugs. I have quit all of this and then started again and then once more quit. Now I plan to stay quit. The road to hell is paved with happy plans.

Wilson has embraced his inner gloom, and he wishes more people would do the same.
The English professor at Wake Forest University wants to be clear that he is not "romanticizing" clinical depression and that he believes it is a serious condition that should be treated.

But he worries that today's cornucopia of antidepressants — used to treat even what he calls "mild to moderate sadness" — might make "sweet sorrow" a thing of the past.

"And if that happens, I wonder, what will the future hold? Will our culture become less vital? Will it become less creative?" he asks.

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