You may have experienced depression. But have you ever experienced the wish to experience depression?
What a strange wish! In his endlessly creative novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick imagines a futuristic world (oddly enough, set in 2021) in which a character chooses voluntarily to be depressed.
She chooses voluntarily to be depressed!
What could cause such a bizarre turn of events?
Well, in this futuristic world (as we learn in the first few pages of the book), people have machines that they use to “dial” a mood. They hook themselves up to their machine, enter in a code for whatever mood they want, and then experience that mood for the day. The machine is called a “mood organ.”
Nowadays we take pills to achieve similar results, so it’s not such a farfetched idea.
In the novel, the protagonist asks his wife about her plan for the day’s mood. She replies:
“My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.”
The protagonist is shocked. What on earth?! Why did she choose such a mood for her schedule? (I wondered, why is that even an option on the mood organ?!)
His wife explains that she feels that life is empty, there in the apartment, watching their futuristic version of mindless TV, dialing in artificial moods. She explains that this must be unhealthy, living in such troubled times but not feeling it, simply dialing the unhappiness away. In essence, she wants to experience something real.
Depression is certainly real, if anything ever was. To think about life and the world and to be sad about it, even pathologically so—that’s real. Really real.
A good lesson is, the next time you start sinking into a depression, remember that it’s real. There is no artificial candy-coated pick-me-up about a depression.
In a world full of artificiality, sometimes reality is the most precious thing.
What’s your mood today?