Good Frames Won't Save Bad Paintings

This is a "before" photo.
I spent Thanksgiving alone. The morning started as most my mornings do: coffee, metal, snooze bars. Then it took an odd course. Recently, I finished a book on minimalism. It was shallow, poorly written, pop self-help, but while sifting through the flat and uninspired chapters, a single idea struck me. I dusted the lonely gem from its worthless mineral brethren: remove (either by donating, gifting, or trashing) one item from your house each day. The behavior is intended to cause you to reevaluate the things in your life and determine which items actually add value to it.

Today I threw away a sizable portion of my belongings. I took the spirit of the exercise and ignored the arbitrary once-a-day bit. Six garbage bags in the dumpster later, there are still ten hours of Thanksgiving left. My loved ones are far and I've run out of things to occupy my hands, mind and time. In the light of midday, my philosophically pregnant enlightenment turned about to be something else entirely.

Turns out I was just lonely and trying to occupy my time. That little bastard, loneliness, is tough to pin down. Despair wears many hats. For most it is negative and debilitating. Drug use, sexual promiscuity, and watching reality TV are common manifestations. But there is a rare breed of positive despair that is often overlooked. It sinks its tiny teeth in our necks and drapes itself like a scarf. To the outside observer, it looks almost like a positive character trait, nearly enviable. The affected seem to possess monk like discipline and an uncanny ability to persist in a task beyond human thresholds. It is because their genius is motivated from despair.

We may write, clean, workout, and take care of our mates to a superhuman degree, but corrupt motivations poison the well when they are born of despair and anxiety. The power of distraction is not to be underestimated. In our search to eradicate despair, we must not leave the most cunning breed to flourish. The bottle and the pen are more similar than we think.

*The title of this post is a lyric from "New Noise" by Refused from their seminal 1998 record The Shape of Punk to Come.

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