Depression is on the rise in almost all modern societies in the Western world. This episode lists five possible causes for this problem, five misconceptions in modern life that can make you depressed. It’s good start to know them!
First on my list is: The media.
When the Web was young we had the illusion of a wonderful new world. Free information for everyone. The Internet will make dictatorships impossible, because everyone can have every information for free. Anytime.
Well, that did not work well. Because we found no way to monetize on the Internet apart from advertisement, news companies have to produce clicks. Everything gets blown out of proportion. The world seems to be on the brink of destruction every day.
And this gets even worse when you let the algorithms of Twitter or Facebook be the judge of events. Now, because information sells advertisement, you can live in your own bubble of panic and believe to know everything that’s important. It’s this illusion of importance that’s making people go so crazy, making every debate on any topic a fight.
The truth is: The important news, the news you really need, are the personal things happening around you. That’s all you need.
Delete the news apps on your phone. Leave Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp.
Then, drink a cup of tea and don’t look at your phone for the next hour. It’s hard. Maybe you get withdrawal symptoms – happened to me. But it’s relaxing in the long run.
That’s a tough one. The meaning of life is measured by work in our societies. Every rich person will tell you that he or she worked very hard on their prosperity. Regardless what you do, the important thing is that you work hard.
That’s complete bullshit. And makes people really unhappy. No millionaire is rich because of hard work. That’s a lie. Mr. Bezos or Mr. Gates are not rich because they worked a million times harder than ordinary people. Every day has only 24 hours for everyone, that’s just not possible. They are rich, because they had luck. They were lucky to be at the right place in the right moment. And healthy. Take any Hollywood star: Famous because of sheer luck.
We have this little fairy tale, that everyone can make it. You just have to believe in your success and work really, really hard than everything will fall in place for you. That’s just not true. It is really dumb.
Because everyone who is ordinary, and by definition most of us are, is a failure. He or she is personally responsible for being ‘only’ ordinary.
Being ordinary is simply not enough. If you are not rich and famous, you are unworthy.
But the bitter truth of life is: There is luck. Dumb, blind luck. It works in our favour sometimes, but sometimes it does not. And there is tragedy. Perfectly normal people can suffer without being responsible for it.
Don’t buy this lie. Don’t buy books like “How to Get Rich and Famous”. If there were a foolproof method everyone would be rich and famous and that’s paradoxical in itself.
Don’t work harder than you need to. It will not make life better for you when you have to suffer for gaining material things. It will depress you.
And the next problem is related. It’s individualism.
Everyone stands on his own. Everyone fights alone. That’s the best way to control people. You separate them. Once we had trade unions, remember? People working together to fight for their rights. Now trade unions are criticized from the right and the left.
Once there were communities thriving. Now we sit before a screen most of the day. Alone. Everyone for himself or herself. Social media are only an illusion of community. A like under a post is no replacement for a real talk between two people.
The lone wolf is our hero and not the sheep. Once again: It’s not enough to be ordinary. You have to be special. But we are built as social animals. We need friends and neighbours, people we can talk to in real life. That’s what makes our brain work properly, that’s what makes our mind relax. And we may even need people that annoy us. We may need real confrontation. To write a bad review online is no replacement for that.
So: Go out into the world and meet real people. If you are meditating, then look for a group of like minded, look out for a sangha. Or join a club. Any club. Meet other people that share the same interests. Or like the same sport. Or know more about gardening than you.
We still have these structures out there – use them.
And we all should begin to praise the ordinary. To enjoy ordinary things. A walk with your dog is not something that keeps you away from the real important things – it IS a real important thing.
Let’s praise the everyday. The silence, the unexcitedness of doing nothing.
Don’t work hard for money and go out and meet real people. In the flesh. That’s what your body is built for. Give him that and you will develop inner peace. That’s much better than living an exciting life.
The next problem is romanticism.
Pop culture ruined love for everyone. Romeo and Juliet is a fairy tale and it is not about love at all. It’s about delusion. There are no dream princes and princesses out there.
We search the world until we find this one person that’s there just for us. Because he or she is the perfect soulmate. Then we fall in love, forget about our own ego for a while and idolize that person. Everything he or she does is so wonderful. It’s like you had somehow developed telepathy – you can finish each others sentences. You have found your dream person! You did it!
Congratulations! We all know: This will not last very long. Sooner or later your ego will wake up with a hiccup. And the dream castle will crumble. Because this romantic view on relationship is all about you. And you don’t like yourself, remember?
It’s more like buying the right product for a specific task. This has nothing to do with love. This is not love, it’s more like masturbation. The other one will not continue to read your thoughts. In fact he or she may have very different opinions on many important points of life. That’s very probable.
Because of pop culture people end up in relations they can’t stand anymore. Just have a look around, this happens everywhere!
Falling in love is a delusion. And love is a decision. A decision you have to make. You love your children, even if you have no real influence on the genetics they come with. They are simply here. To make a mess out of your life. That’s their job. But: You love them. Because you decided to love them.
The same thing is true about relationships between couples. It’s very unromantic to say, but if you really love your partner, it’s not important who he or she is. Not a thing to say at a romantic candle light dinner, I know. But it begins to be love when it’s not about you anymore. Love is selfless. It’s not about you at all.
If you are a romantic, you are emotionally affected if the other person is different from what you expected. That’s why you run away or shout or fight or close yourself in the bathroom. Because romanticism is about you.
If you love someone you can see his or her pain when they are fighting with you. You don’t have to run away, because it’s not about you at all. It’s about the other person.
Don’t chase your dream prince or princess. They don’t exist. If Romeo and Juliet would be about love, we could see them growing old together and lead an ordinary live. And we already established that ‘ordinary’ is the best way to be. Romeo vacuums the living room, Juliet forgot to buy detergent for the dishwasher. That’s the kind of love story I’d like to see.
And the last suspect is secularism.
God is dead, said Friedrich Nietzsche. And we killed him. And then we had nothing to fill the void. So, it’s still there. We lost religion. At least many of us have.
This is a problem because we lost a sense of awe, too. The idea that miracles do happen, I talked about that already. That there are things we can’t explain. Never.
It’s very difficult to describe how powerful religion can be. My favourite church service is Easter. The whole congregation meets outside, in the middle of the night. After a short walk we enter the church and we do sit in the church, in complete darkness and silence and wait for the sun to rise. Then we would sing together, which is very powerful, too. Melodies that are centuries old and beautiful.
For me these services meant: Winter is gone. Spring will come. Death will not win in the end. Life will.
I personally do not believe in resurrection as most Christians do, but the message of this service was the same. I was in awe of life itself. I needed that. I needed being a small part of something that is bigger than me.
And I think everyone needs that. But in our secular societies our religious needs are satisfied by esoteric nonsense and spiritual voodoo. Spirituality has become a commodity. And I think that’s really a huge problem for us and depressing, too. This is the reason I started this podcast, after all.
I am not saying: Get baptized. Become a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jew. That’s not what I am saying. But: Find something in your life that tells you that you are a part of something bigger than you. That’s really important. Because being alone with your thoughts can make you depressed.
Look actively for things that make you marvel. Maybe it’s the sound of an orchestra. Or a beautiful sunset. Or the smile on the face of your loved one. There are miracles out there. Marvel at them.
So. Let’s summarize my five theories again. I talked about secularism, romanticism, individualism, hard work and the media. These are things we have to live with in modern societies, but they can make you sick.
You have to work against them actively and on your own, I’m sorry.
And it’s not an easy thing to do. If you are a strong believer in the hardworking-fairytale, then what could change your mind? Not me with this podcast, I’m sure.
But I think it’s possible to work against the influence these misconceptions have in your life. In the end it’s about feeling inside of you what’s really important to you.
We are built to love, we are social animals, we love to marvel about things and we like it, when things are ordinary and not exciting. That’s plain spirituality. To live in harmony with your nervous system, so to say.
A plain spirituality is about life. About life itself.