My latest piece is over at The Catholic Gentleman, wherein I try to actually use my depression for some modicum of good. I have a lot of gratitude for Sam Guzman for giving me the opportunity to reach another audience and help spread awareness about mental illness.
Recently, I’ve been going through what the great Winston Churchill called “black dog days.” These days are defined by an overall low mood, inability to cope with basic things like getting out of bed, or finding enjoyment in my usual passions. Do not fear, reader, this is actually normal for me.
You see, I have something called Major Depressive Disorder, which was in previous times called clinical depression. In the ancient world, the Greek physician Hippocrates labeled it melancholia. It is something I’ve dealt with for some time now, and my family has a long history of it. My family tree is full of folks who either ended up in the mental ward or at the bottom of a bottle due to this condition. A few, sadly, found more permanent ways of dealing with it.
Read the rest at The Catholic Gentleman…
Yes, yes, I’m making another promise that I am unlikely to keep, but I love writing too much to let this blog go. So it is that I’m introducing a new feature on this blog to compete with one of my four readers and fellow Catholic curmudgeon and to force my hand to be thankful for the small things in this world. Like Mr. Chesterton’s book, I want this to be a series that sees God’s extradornary grace and the great adventure that is in everyday, ordinary things. “For this purpose,” to quote GKC, “I have takenthe laziest person of my acquaintance, that is myself; and made an idle diary of such odd things as I have fallen over by accident, in walking in a very limited area at a very indolent pace.” Let Der Wolf have his grandeur and vast galaxies, but I shall be wowed by the simple observations in my own small life.
Think of this series as a call to relax and happy with what we have at the end of the week. Alternatively, you may also think of it as stress relief from a narcissistic grad student who wishes to have his poorly scribed thoughts read. Either way, I welcome you dear reader to brew a cup of coffee and think with me about one small grace we take for granted every day. I am of course speaking of nicotine and caffeine.
Do you ever wonder what people did before coffee became widely consumed and almost universally available? It would seem that in those dark days if one was tired but still wanted to work and think, they simply went to bed. Alternatively, all those great scholars who endured the life of the mind simply relied on sheer force of the will to read one more page or write one more sentence. Yet, dear reader, we take this stimulant so lightly and can push our minds ever further in order to find to get more done. Now, as this post is about the relaxation and the wonder of substance I now must move to what delights me to pair coffee with.
The few people familiar with my person and my writings are aware at how much delight I take in smoking. I’m no longer a cigarette smoker, but the pipe and the cigar I find to be a defining point in my time to relax. Since I was 18 and lit up my first El Rey del Mundo on that joyous Christmas eve I have had cigars as my muse. Chesterton himself had said, “Some men write with a pencil, others with a typewriter. I write with my cigar.” While I do not write by cigar light, as much as I would enjoy it, I do find that cigars have led me to more periods of contemplation than I can count. When I first considered the Catholic faith I was smoking an El Rey with a cup of Lions coffee on my front porch on a warm summer evening and I think it was then that I decided that the Catholic faith would be my home. It was a silly reason, and one really devoid of the logic I wanted to understand so badly, but I came to the idea because the only thing that made me happier than that evening with all its trappings was the idea that God could create the universe and become human for no practical reason whatsoever. If I could be thankful for such things like a good Havana cigar, could I not also be thankful for that very gift of life and the five senses that made such a small thing like a cigar so wonderful? Finally, if there was a promise of something even greater as a result of this God acting for love of it, would I not want that so much more. So it is that I resolved to become a papist and have been stumbling on the road ever since.
My final reason for advocating the pairing of cigars and a good cup of coffee is the most serious one of all; I advocate such leisure because we in modernity have forgotten the serious work of relaxation. We are so serious about politics, theology, and economics but we lack the seriousness to be at ease and even find a reason to be festive. Cigars–those small, brown items that have remained unchanged for over 500 years–are our ancestors gift to us because they force us to slow down. In an era of fast food, instant communications, and point-and-click pleasures it is the cigar that forces us to sit down and not move for a good duration of time. In this they are the secret to forcing one to sit and
contemplate or gather with a crowd of friends and enjoy unrushed conversation. No one smokes a cigar in a hurry and I have yet to meet a person who runs with a cigar burning, for such an act is both sinful and impossible. I have smoked with people of different faiths, nationalities, political views, and generations and that slow burning tobacco is the social bond that makes us sit and enjoy each other’s company. To my knowledge, few things are able to make us sit and enjoy ourselves and that is why I think we should fight for the cigar room as diligently as we fight for the courtroom or the voting booth.
My cheers to you, dear reader, as we light up this ordinary time and prepare for Lent. Might I suggest a good smoke and a cup to get us through the winter and think more of these graces the Creator has bestowed on us for He love all men and women! Oh, and if you are in Chicago, I recommend stopping by Iwan Ries for as many hours as you can with new and old friends in a place where the City That Works sits down for a few hours to enjoy itself.
Even though I am certain that he doesn’t appreciate my pirate jokes, I am enjoying the new- found blog by fellow bibliophile and beer enthusiast, Kevin Huges. As someone who quaffs more than his average share of beer, I think his reviews are pretty straight forward and seems to agree with my tastes in the bitter stuff. Go forth and read, my beloved reader!
Along with this blog recommendation, I give you the greatest news for today:
A new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that – for reasons that aren’t entirely clear – abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one’s risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers. The most shocking part? Abstainers’ mortality rates are higher than those of heavy drinkers.
Praise be to God, for HE loves mankind!
“Mark Steyn is the 21st century’s Winston Churchill. I am confident you’ll see the light someday.”
Father Stephen writes yet another post that makes his blog required daily reading for me. Reposting an earlier post, the Orthodox priest writes:
Knowing God is not a distraction from knowing other persons, nor is knowing other persons a distraction from knowing God. But, like God, knowing other persons is not the same thing as thinking about them, much less is it objectifying them.
Knowing others is so far from being a distraction from knowing God, that it is actually essential to knowing God. We cannot say we love God, whom we have not seen, and hate our brother whom we do see, St. John tells us. We only know God to the extent that we love our enemies (1 John 4:7-8).
And this matters.
This blog does not matter – except that I may share something that makes it possible for someone to know God or someone may share something that allows themselves to be known. This matters.