This one’s a little heavier than usual. Here goes.
I’m still here and you are too. So I have to ask: Isn’t it ironic how so many of us deal with depression and we collectively pretend it doesn’t exist and never talk about it?
Chris Cornell committed suicide a few days ago. It was already a moderately busy week for me when on May 18, at around 04:30am my Facebook feed lit up with the news, and I had to stop what I was doing and pay attention. He was not that much older than me.
I’ve been feeling a slow wave of quiet devastation inside not because I'm an ardent fan who followed his career religiously, but because here was someone who seemed to have made the "right" moves in a long, 20-year, exemplary career. He had matured in the public eye to become a respected member of society, a philanthropist, and a role model for an entire demographic. I was among the people who were in their teens and early twenties back in 1990 when Soundgarden had made it big.
My generation, Generation X, is possibly the first postwar generation to openly deal with depression in through art and other means. But it has been a slow trickle. We have seen so many cultural figures die from the variety of self-harming behaviors associated with these issues. My own depression and PTSD were the focus of my work for many years until I had to exit to do other things in other media for a while. Over time, however, my private philosophy would congeal into a strong belief in the power of creativity—a need for the making, the seeing and the being within earshot of “Art” with a capital, working-class-ethic “A”—to save me from the crushing weight of this indifferent, modern life. Schmaltzy as it sounds, it was art that saved me. Still does, whether I make it or take it in.
For people like me—and some of you out there—who “manage” it after years of decoding its many forms and guises, after realizing that it’s here to stay, and eventually opening the front door to it like a tired host, Cornell’s death is an iron reminder, and a call to arms. It’s a reminder that there are always methods to deal with it, professional and otherwise. And that there are always people who understand, and there are always those who will never understand—and you should expect that, and keep your head down and just make some work. Because if you make work long enough, eventually you will always find a “threshold back to beauty’s arms”, as Jim Carroll put it.
This week’s Journal piece went to bed last week before I got the news about Chris Cornell. But it’s almost the kind of piece that can’t ever be timed badly. Everyone, myself included, could sometimes use a little post-it that says “Life is unbearably short. So get to it.”
I hope you will find it useful.
Thank you for reading this. Spring is in the air. It has been waiting all your life to say hello to you. I hope your Monday is off to a high-octane start.