Actor and writer Boyd Clack here writes exclusively for The Eye about the depression which dogs him.
I am not by nature a happy person. I suffer from long term clinical depression but, that aside, I am not one of nature’s optimists.
A lesson in Drama College consisted of us students sat around in a circle being given one minute to find a way to cry convincingly. Most of us, indeed probably all of us, used emotional recall a la Stanislavski to get in the correct condition to deliver the goods. Everyone did it quite easily; indeed the results were universally spectacular. We sobbed our hearts out.
We were congratulated by the tutor John and then given the task, again with a minute’s preparation, of producing genuine laughter. What resulted was an embarrassment of ham awkwardness. On reflection it became clear to me what had happened. The well of sadness was deep, the well of happiness shallow. This is because bad things live on within us whereas joy is inevitably ephemeral. Try this experiment yourself.
There have been times in my lifetime when the world seemed to be moving in the right direction. In my teenage years, in the sixties, there was an excitement in the air. Prejudices of all kinds were being challenged by a radical youth movement using music, love and drugs as weapons. It was random and poorly-led and organised but its heart was in the right place. It was also of course doomed to failure but we didn’t know that then.
The seventies saw, the American War Machine defeated by the peasant army of Vietnam and in the decades since there have been populist uprisings in Europe culminating in the fall of the monstrous regimes in the Eastern Bloc, watching the Berlin Wall being torn down, couples kissing in the rubble, soldiers dancing with pretty girls, the end of the Apartheid government in South Africa and spasmodic populist uprisings in countries worldwide.
At such times the positive reverberations have infiltrated life everywhere, something good seemed to be happening somewhere and it was a sign of universal hope.
As I regard the planet in its present state I see nothing good happening anywhere, quite the opposite, evil seems to be firmly in the ascendency. Rack my brain as I might I can’t think of anything in any modern society that offers hope. The Middle East is engaged in an endless, unwinnable civil war fought between the corrupt and the insane. Russia is an amoral kleptocracy. Britain and Europe are living in a cartoon world of mutual jealousy and hatred. The Hydras of racism and the far right are raising their heads like poisonous flowers after a storm in every garden in every country. Trump’s America is rancid.
Truth has become a word without meaning. There is no big thing throwing light into the darkness. There is still personal happiness of course, love, friendship, nature, human kindness, art, silliness; all these things can bring a smile or a glow but the time when the world itself could lift our souls is gone and I fear it is never coming back.
Still you’ve got to laugh … haven’t you?
Also on The Eye – Edwin Phillips on an internal Labour email about why party members should stick with Jeremy Corbyn over student debt.