This is my first blogroll post. Rather than instantly conjure a blogroll that just lists things I like, I will be using this series to also cover why I like them and in some cases include a short list of my favorite posts.
The Blog: First up is Hyperbole and a Half, written by Allie Brosh. The content generally takes the form of whimsical drawings illustrating her ideas, experiences, and pet peeves. It’s relatable, entertaining, and I wish her all the best as she recovers from depression and releases her first book!
Why I Like It: I need to understand things and ideas. This leads me to take them apart. I credit this compulsion with my skill at untangling complex arguments and noticing biases, agendas, and especially unspoken, unacknowledged assumptions. Academics often refer to this as “unpacking” an issue; usually with the condescending connotation that whoever’s idea they are about to unpack is full of aforementioned small-minded assumptions. For that reason I usually think of myself instead as a deconstructionist. While I think this pretty accurately describes my method of thought, I also speculate that my results and therefore my politics and worldview probably don’t align with many others who also see themselves as deconstructionists. I think it’s a pretty cool place to be. Friends have said they’d pay money to see how the wheels in my head turn.
However, this skill has a dark side to it. It inevitably and repeatedly leads to depression. At a certain level of deconstruction, concepts begin to lose a level of meaning that resonates emotionally with people. As River from FireFly explains to Sheppard Book, “I tore these out of your symbol and they turned into paper, but I wanna put them back, so…”
Allie covers this phenomenon masterfully in her two comics dealing with her own depression. I have lived the bowling alley discussion over and over again at times and places I was supposed to be enjoying myself and wasn’t. In the span of a few pictures and a dozen words she explains why you can’t “just cheer up” a depressed person; they aren’t refusing to enjoy themselves—they genuinely don’t understand how to be happy in their present circumstances.
Furthermore, advice from those who don’t understand falls on deaf ears. “That”, as she says, “is a solution to a different problem than the one I have”.
Finally, Allie illustrates one of the (only?) most reliable cures; a sense of defiance of circumstance and an exertion of control and ownership over one’s circumstances. In the same way that tearing down your environment to threads of understanding renders it joyless, (and for a visual example, the way that viewing the Matrix as a code renders it overwhelming and senseless to the human eye), grabbing those threads and assembling them into something, be it a video rental or The Woman In Red, puts the joy and fun back into life. Her pure joy in free will at the video store is something else I’ve experienced more than a few times, and is a lesson worth sharing.
Best Of: Obviously I am a huge fan of her two long posts on depression. However, I’ll use this section to acknowledge:
- The origin of a near-universally-known internet meme as well as a description of where I am in my own life.
- Her new pain scale which I hope finds more wide-spread acceptance in the medical community. Because the current one is just not useful (4:25 on).
So, those are some reasons to check out hyperboleandahalf. Enjoy!