George Washington said, “Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
I read this in one of my many e-mail subscriptions as I was plunging into a Monday with a natural, persistent, heavy despondency from a deep and unknowable source. (It was a despair like the many of the past days, weeks, and months, like the one David Foster Wallace describes: “The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death.”) How many times did I read this quotation, Washington’s, not Wallace’s, early this morning before the sun started to assail our dirty living room window, before I finally understood in my dim-witted fashion that not only am I a failure because of my diseases but I am a moral failure. A fucking moral failure. (Please excuse my language – this is serious.) I tried to reverse the nouns several times, but the conclusion is the same.
I’ve always wanted to be a man of integrity, a man of moral convictions, and though I have failed at times, I’ve felt predominately successful. But I don’t remember when I was last happy. To me, this quotation, if true (perceptively it feels true and the source not lacking in wisdom) means that I should not be considered human. I should resign now. I was halfway through with an essay I promised to write for a friend which would explain why I am not entirely human, and now I read this effortless quotation that seems to tell me that I am not in the least bit human. That essay is trash, replaced by this far more fatalistic and conclusive essay.
Perhaps I am only a failure at being human. People say “progress not perfection,” which is entirely true in my heart, but I do not show a trace of progress. In fact, If you go back to a time when I was three or four years old, you could demonstrate quite graphically how my life has been a decline that has been so rapid, it could hardly be called steady. It is the short-lived rise and the tremendously-powerful, almost infinite decline of Carl. Even if I look at the last 11 months and 2 weeks, a time when I have come under the best care one can find, the slope is downward.
B2 says, “It’s not very scientific.” (We have no idea why you’re not getting better but let’s not give up yet, nor should we try electroconvulsive therapy, YET.) I think she has said that a hundred times, that it’s not scientific, but the truth is I have heard it that many times and I have no idea how many times she actually said it. If it’s not scientific, maybe it is theological. Maybe certain people are damned. There are certain genetic and environmental factors, but “it’s not very scientific,” so maybe some people are simply damned. In Washington’s time, I suppose that is more literally true. The disease would mean a lifetime of lock-up. Maybe that is not as ineffective as we seem to have judged it to be in the last 70 years. I wouldn’t want to lose my freedom, but if they poisoned me with enough medicine, I might not notice.
I’m left debating if I am better ripping my nails out, clawing on the highest ridge with razor sharp granite, doing my best to hold on to slivers of hope, or perhaps better being locked up. Today, it might be furious pain, but I am doing my best to stick with the former. What seems not debatable, according to a very wise man, is that I am constitutionally incapable of being morally dutiful because it seems that I am constitutionally incapable of being happy.
I’ll keep trying. I have all of my methods, seemingly all of which I have tried today, and I have all of these wonderfully moral and supremely happy and superior people in my life who cannot see the utter shit that is inside me and who therefore find it easy to tell me it is easy to be happy, just change my mind. (Hell yes, I’d love to exchange my mind at Wal-Mart, but they won’t take it back!)
The only bandage I have is thinking of and/or working with other people who are also hurting and focusing all of my energy on them. That is my only bandage and I will keep using it over and over until it slips into the rest of the morass that is inside of me.