Depression and time

Time has a profound enemy, and that enemy is depression. Depression is the enemy of time because it exhausts time. It expends your time without remainder. Depression results in the deletion, or the depletion, of time as a finite, lived quantity through which the richness of the world takes shape. Unlike consuming or wasting time, both of which serve some purpose – the cultivation or production of earthly pleasures, the sheer heretical quiddity of unstructured existence that should require no justification – depression gives nothing back. It just takes, and takes, and takes. If it has its way, it takes until you have no more time left for it to take from you.

In this regard, Mark Fisher’s observation that depression always has a political dimension is perfectly apt. For most of us, most of the time, our labor is exploited ruthlessly. Our effort and our time gets remunerated far below its value. Never forget that this is the true origin of profit. The vast draconic hoards accumulated by the living gods of capital are graveyards of time. Rich is lich. Their coin is plucked from the living flesh. Their wealth is a red harvest of misery, encrypted by lackeys and weaponized against those to whom it belongs. Of course, the economic theologians will tell you that your labor – your effort, your life, your time – has no value, except whatever price the market dictates. You should be grateful that you get even pennies for all the irrecuperable hours.

I suppose I’m drawing this loose parallel between depression and exploitation, between our affective and political struggles, because they intrude upon our lifeworlds in ways that can produce something like a commons, a commons that we all need desperately. Of course, there is nothing determined or guaranteed about the appearance of such a commons. For example, when depression takes away the last bit of time someone has, a continent of possibility sinks. No action, no conversations, no experience, no reservations. Losses may be mourned, but never recovered.

However, it’s not a community of mourning I intend to invoke, but one that takes shape in our collective and individual struggles against the exhaustion of our time – and of our time together. So much time, eaten by the black dog; so much time, poured into the coffers of the rich. Apprehending the sheer scale of these dark edifices of lost and stolen time is almost overwhelming, like wandering an empty city on a dead planet.

Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott reports a comment made by one of his analysands in 1956: “The only time I felt hope was when you told me you could see no hope, and you continued with the analysis.”

There is a difficult, almost inarticulable insight hiding inside this comment, which I think of as the wisdom of the trudge. Can’t go on; must go on; don’t stop swimming. Some things can never be justified, made right, or recuperated – yet the analysis, so to speak, must continue. Refusing it now only compounds the situation. Recall the bleak comedy of an aphorism (falsely) imputed to Mao: It’s always darkest before it’s totally black.

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger, but, as Trevor Goodchild reminds us, thank God it makes you stranger. In the strangeness of things is their salvage.