the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

gluck on depression and the future

Posted by rigorousm on December 1, 2014

The future is not assured; that is its drama. It can show itself in two shapes: as ongoing reality– a present extended indefinitely– or as a new world. In the second case, a boundary asserts itself… . To stand at that boundary is to be divested of the past, which for the first time, in its distinctness, needs to be called the past. At first this perception feels exhilarating and dangerous and infinitely fresh….

… a certain psychic condition succeeds this exhilaration. Its sign is impoverishment, a sense of inertia that owes something to the past’s increasing remoteness, a loss of connection to the accomplishments which occurred there, but more, i think, to the impossibility of projecting alternatives, of imagining an occupied future. … Suddenly the present seems an agony; what has been lost is the self, that construct of memory and vision which so depends on a stable conception of the past, a stable trajectory into the future.

The terror of this condition is that it has lost the power to yearn, while remembering a time when this was not so. It yearns only for respite, meaning release from hopelessness; it can imagine no more specific objective. Moreover, such confinement represents itself not as a tunnel, a darkness being passed through, but as a well; it is a place time cannot reach. … This profound sense of having nothing, of being incapable of thought or response, this desolate emptiness runs contrary to every hope we have for ourselves; its atmosphere of finality reproduces the sense of arrival that characterizes triumph, and mocks that sensation. At the same time, interior paralysis magnifies external vitality: all around, other people seem enviably caught up in, animated by feeling.

— Louise Gluck, “On Impoverishment,” Proofs and Theories: essays on poetry, p 129-130.


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