Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Jest Is Not Infinite

David Foster Wallace is dead. Long live David Foster Wallace.


Spatula said...

Oh no! That's a really sad piece of news. I'm so shocked about the suicide part. From outside the Depression Bubble, it looks so incomprehensible that such a talented, successful person with loved ones in his life would feel such self-loathing and despair. But inside the bubble, it probably made some kind of twisted sense.

Well, I hope his spirit returns to that which gave it and finds peace there. We here in the dust will treasure having had him.

And my deep sympathy to his poor wife.

Pretty Lady said...

It is tragic indeed, Spatula. Having known some people with chronic depression who eventually committed suicide, I have come to see it as akin to falling off a cliff; the illness temporarily suspends the mental editor who counsels, 'maybe I shouldn't do that.' Most times, the cloud lifts and the person steps back from the edge. Sometimes, sadly, they don't.

I admit that, after reading his work, it must not have been particularly comfortable to live inside his mind. But I am still genuinely shocked and saddened.

Chris Rywalt said...

When you're depressed, it's not even twisted sense. It's just sense. My current theory on it is that human brains are fantastic at making up reasons for things. We always ask why and look for a probable answer. It's how humans got to where we are today. When you're depressed, this mechanism gets you in trouble, because the machinery that's asking why is the machinery that's the cause. So when you're depressed you feel bad, and you ask why do I feel bad? And you look around and invent answers: I feel bad because I'm a fraud. I'm rich while other people are suffering. My spouse doesn't really love me. My family thinks I'm a jerk. Whatever.

None of these are the real answer: The real answer is you feel bad because your brain chemicals aren't functioning properly. But poorly functioning chemicals can't tell they're poorly functioning. So these reasons look good. They're entirely fictional, but they look good when you're depressed.

So the sense isn't twisted at all -- it's exactly right. The conclusions are arrived at using the same mechanisms everyone uses to arrive at anything -- whether they're hungry, what to have for breakfast, how to improve the internal combustion engine, how to cure smallpox. It's just that the mechanism can't look at itself properly.

When you act on these chains of reasoning, though, you find that nothing you do helps. Everything only gets worse. Because you're working from faulty data. Eventually, suicide looks like the only way out -- the only thing you can do and get right which will solve everything. It's permanent, but at last and at least it works.

Unfortunately we still understand so little about how the human brain works we can't really cure depression. Not yet. So there goes another one.