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by Travis Hardin

MERRIMENT. Clowning. Banter. These things seem essential to many of us just because they're natural, an affirmation of good health and good will. Often, though, humor is to depression, and satire to rage, what the moon is to the earth: A juxtaposed but subordinate satellite, forever trying but failing to escape the incessant gravity of its ponderous captor.

For the past few months, as I have warily eyed the superior object, it has begun to take the shape of Inevitable Tragedy. For me, you may correctly label that feeling "clinical depression." A feeling disorder, depression may result from anger turned inward, from unmet expectations, and from genetic predisposition.

Like the schizophrenic who might say with dismissal, "It's not paranoia if they're REALLY after you," this depressive entertains the possibility that his present hopelessness is a feeling that would afflict every sensitive and intelligent person were they to reflect on matters as soberly as he. He entertains the notion that intelligent people, being able to perceive connections and view the whole, might be more prone to depression than others because of what they see.

What might they see? Passing quickly, for the reader's sake, over personal disappointments--disillusionment with job and people, narrowing options, unfilled potential, finances-- we move to a sampling of more universal questions that evoke rage and hopelessness (I can answer most of them, but I don't like the answers.):

1. Why are so many people not only ignorant, but also malicious?

2. Why is U.S. society competitive, weighted in favor of ruthless, unprincipled liars and cheats, rather than cooperative?

3. Why do people-groupings, particularly government, act from the limbic system (cf. Carl Sagan's "reptilian brain" from "Dragons of Eden") while individuals composing the group can act from the cerebellum?

4. What causes a normal person to become a cruel megalomanic when given any power?

5. How is the above preventable?

6. What form of government is more harmful to the welfare of humanity than the rule of the ignorant, malevolent, angry, neurotic majority? Why is the majority angry, ...etc.?

7. Why is destruction magnitudes easier than creativity? Why can one hour of destruction negate centuries of careful physical or intellectual building? Why can one M-1 tank burn an entire art museum in seconds? Why does the angry buzz of one small motorbike near the band shell drown out Schubert's "Serenade"?

8. Why can one pea-brained sociopath with a six-gun easily kill a president, two Ph.D.'s, an M.D., an engineer, and a jogger (before or after which he rapes her), and be sentenced only to the punishment of lifetime TV reruns? Why is the value of life not weighted against that destructive individual?

9. Why is the history of the human race not continuously progressive toward human welfare and happiness, given that we can preserve and build on past knowledge?

What to do.......?

I have resolved that, to the extent my feelings can be kept from eating at my resolve--a tall order--my mission is to create. When in the face of overwhelming destruction, I will create. When the barbarians destroy it, I will create anew.

In the country of liars, I will communicate the rational and empirical truth. If others shun or punish the truth, it still stabilizes and guides me.

Tied up and guarded by the humorless, I will still make jokes and puns in my own mind.

Always I will seek the company of intelligent and sensitive people (like you)--people aware of the gravity and tragedy of life always pulling, pulling--but whose destiny is to serve as a counterpoint around which intellectuals, idealists, and benevolent people may coalesce and perchance become, one day, the heavier mass.

Silliness. Abandon. Humor. Some of our effective survival mechanisms. So, laughing or morose, I'll look for you at the Holiday Inn Inner Harbor Regional Gathering April 12-14. Hugs given and received.