An outsider’s look into the conceptual polarity of Schizophrenia and Depressionby Shiv Bhalla January 28 2015, 3:19 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 24 secs
“The creativity of people on the schizophrenic end of the human continuum is a creativity that springs from the inability to accept the standardized cultural denials of the real nature of ex-perience. And the price of this kind of almost “extra human” creativity is to live on the brink of madness, as men have long known.”
-Ernest Becker (The denial of Death)
In his book the “denial of death”, the philosopher Ernest Becker makes a compelling case that the human condition can be so overburdening, so frightening that not being thrust into a state of madness by the overwhelming act of contemplating one’s existence is a form ofmadness in itself. To consider the miracle of spaceship earth floating through the celestial planes of the milky way galaxy, held precisely in place by unfathomable forces so as to birth life so complex that it spawned life so complex that it is self aware and able to pontificate such a thought; and beyond the romantic notion to not be maddened by the infinite variables, forces invisible to our puny subjective senses would be an insanity of its own sort.
It is fascinating to extend this philosophy and apply it to mental health as we understand it today. By polarizing schizophrenia and depression it is interesting to see that all of us fit somewhere on the scale between these hyperbolic poles. The bane of the schizophrenic’s existence is the intensity of hissensory perception; being fed with so much information, such overwhelmingly enormous sensory data that processing said date would simply be an insurmountable task. He has a metaphorical canon brimming with infinitesimal fractal detail of every piece of information of his surroundings, coded into sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, often overflowing into one another; and has that cannon pointed to hole the size of a singularity (the schizophrenics perception). The schizophrenic is burdened with only being able to focus on a fraction of this sensory data, while being aware of the rest of the data that is outside the grasp of his perception. It is this data that is out of grasp, the infinite possibility and indecision on which data to focus on, which to allow inside the singularity; that causes the symptoms of the condition to manifest. His psyche is flooded by an overbearing amount of unfiltered sense impressions , impregnated with such deep meaning; such momentous importance that it tears at the very seams of reality for he realizes that he cannot fathom the nature of reality because he is unable to ride all the waves of sense impressions. He cannot be in two places simultaneously. He is torn apart, obliterated by the forces of his sense that pull him multiple opposing directions, shattering any sense of centre or peace of mind.
In contrast, the depressive envisions the archetypal illusion of the walls closing in. He is burdened by the failure of the imagination, an inability to envisage possibility beyond his own solipsistic existence; magnifying petty problems to unconquerable demons bearing down and burdening a dwindling spirit, an ember suffocating in a vacuum of despair and anguish. Unlike the schizophrenic who is in a perennial godhead state is pulled apart in the infinite ethereal planes of cognition; the depressive is grounded to the point of being smothered by the earth. His spirit is burdened by his own weight due to his inability to transcend, to see beyond his strife and fathom something larger.
We find ourselves now with a creative challenge, to strike a balance between these two extremes. To be able to feel enough to absorb but not so much that we perceive it as synesthetic gibberish while not simultaneously sucked into our own individual corporeal disconnect with what is beyond our own troubles, yearnings and inadequacies. To traverse the ecstatic visions and nightmarish labyrinths, and then find one’s centre and process these journeys and put them into perspective so we can share and cherish memories, stories, philosophies, thoughts, ideas and truths with enough grace that it can be called art.