When Scottish physician and writer Arthur Conan Doyle created his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, he gave the immortal sleuth some character traits not considered virtues. Foremost among these dubious qualities would be Holmes’ chronic problem with boredom. Another negative behaviour, his cocaine habit, stems directly from this noteworthy inability to stay afloat in unstimulating situations. Doyle wished us to see that Holmes’ mind was so powerful it required huge amounts of intellectual “fuel” to keep it from stalling.
Arthur Conan Doyle used his famous character, Sherlock Holmes, to exemplify the perils of boredom for those with powerful intellects. (Photo: Wikipedia)
In reality, anyone with a decent mind faces the same situation. We know that all human beings tend towards “psychic entropy” when alone – the least stimulating situation a person can be in. It is less obvious that persons of greater intelligence may suffer the same fate even when among others if the milieu in which they travel is of insufficient sophistication. The danger is, as it was with Holmes, boredom followed by sudden descents into severe depression.
Depression is becoming a pandemic in the West. Perhaps surprisingly, hardship and want are not always – or even often – the source of our misery. The problem is more likely to stem from our comfortable standard of living and secure social safety net. Having it easy makes us passive and complacent – and that leaves us vulnerable to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Looking at some famous examples of the more chronic forms of depression will illuminate the modern experience.
Winston Churchill often battled depression calling the dark mood his “black dog.” (Photo: Wikimedia)
Depression often assailed Winston Churchill who referred to the wretched emotional state as his “black dog.” Like a loyal hound, depression has a habit of following the sufferer around. Rather than Churchill’s black dog, I use the image of a black pit when contemplating my own troubles with depression. To remain free of this gloomy curse requires constant clawing at the sloping lip of the abyss. Even a moment’s lapse in the desperate struggle results in a nasty tumble into despair, from whence it can be difficult to regain the precarious, yet greatly desired, perch on the edge. Depressive types live their whole lives in this manner. (Manic-depressives such as me get some respite during manic episodes.)