The Touch That Topples Man and Rock
Happiness consumes itself like a flame. It cannot burn for ever, it must go out, and the presentiment of its end destroys it at its very peak.
— August Strindberg, A Dream Play
Yet with petty misery
At heart, a petty misery,
Ever the prelude to your end,
The touch that topples man and rock.
— Wallace Stevens, The Man With The Blue Guitar (1937)
I’m exceedingly fond of all of you and I felt that I need to explain my lack of engagement and communication. I feel that I owe it to you for all that you’ve given me over the last few years.
This is, I cannot deny, an almost insurmountably difficult post for me to write. I’ve always been of a melancholy disposition: the product, I suppose of education, experience, life and natural inclination.
But it was never a ‘problem’. I recognised it and fought it with humour and an understanding of life’s inherent absurdity.
Over the last year, however, I have been subjected to something that I find almost impossible to describe: if you’ve never been there, then you can never know it.
I’ve been having prolonged periods of what doctors call ‘clinical depression’. The whys and hows of it don’t signify: all that matters is the terror it induces.
When Inez came downstairs at 3 AM to find me sobbing uncontrollably and incapable of explaining why, she insisted I see a doctor.
It is almost impossible for me to describe the sensation; not mere ‘futility’ or ‘hopelessness’; these are commonplace.
What this is is a negation of life: a feeling that life is not simply ‘futile’ or ‘pointless’, but inimical; bleakly and malignantly hostile.
I now understand something that I never had before; why people kill themselves for no discernible reason.
I’m on medication that the doctors, with their touching faith, have prescribed. It allows me to function; it keeps the horror at bay.
But it makes me less than what I was. I feel dull, moving through a fog; listless and incapable of interesting myself in anything. The ability to enthuse is absent.
The doctors believe that my system will rebalance itself, after a long spell of self-abuse. I have to believe this. There was never a man with less reason to be unhappy.
I just wanted you, my friends (albeit digital) to understand why I’ve been so unengaged and uncommunicative.
I know you’ll wish me well and I’m determined to get through this and return to myself. I will or die trying.