Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Memories, moods, habits, and a multi-billion-dollar industry

This oddment seems more similar to lichen than more familiar vegetation. It is usually found on the parts of parent vegetation closest to the ground and therefore easily ignored. The basic structure resembles vegetation like strawberries or mundane spider-plants: small pockets of slightly more dense material connected to the next by miniscule stalk-like runners. No two examples of this particular oddment are precisely alike in terms of coloration, scent, or other details, but certain types can be grouped by general 'theme'. Unlike invasive lichen encountered in the mortal realm, this oddment family does not actively infest nearby vegetation; rather, their presence (especially different types combining in the same oddment) can radically alter the emotional connotation of any adjacent oddment, and removing them can be a daunting task for even the most experienced oddment-cultivator.

In the most recent issue of Wired [citation to follow when I get around to it], I found an article discussing the corporate interpretation of the phrase "better living through chemistry". In essence, the article focuses on one person's backlash against the "Prozac Nation" mindset, which proclaims any and all non-"up" moods to be anathema to the American Way... and therefore represent a potential market for goods and services. You may glance at your bulk-mail folder and assume that various pharmaceuticals intended for more intimate situations are the end-all and be-all of the companies responsible for such things, but apparently anti-depressants have been at the top of the industry's best-seller lists for the past five years or so. The subject of the article goes on to assert that certain "down" moods are just part of the human condition, and must be treated through the older methods of communication with one's fellows and honest introspection with oneself.

Figure that we still need expert opinions to determine when we're outside of this range, as well as establishing where this general range is for each of us. Figure that the pharmaceutical industry will not be able to provide us with chemical help for all of life's bumps and bruises and little disappointments... as well they should not. Figuring out that stuff on our own, or failing to do so when or as quickly as we may individually desire, is still something that can't be taken away from us. I may well wind up wishing to become an account in a blood bank (free lobotomy as part of the deal), but if I'm going to end up in such a state, I want to go into it all at once and of my own volition, rather than one capacity for emotion at a time.

Even if, for example, my capacity for regret is chemically damped, the rest of my life (of which my body is only a manifestation) will not stop providing the sources for regret, and it will simply show up elsewhere. A crude proof of this is available through basic research into various documented psychological illnesses with physical manifestations; when the body and/or mind are injured but the patient refuses to seek treatment, the symptoms worsen until the patient can no longer ignore them. Consider an individual whose capacity for anger has been chemically damped; the patient is no longer subject to raging physical abuse of his or her loved ones, but neither can they be motivated to change their circumstances by receiving abuse in turn. The anger response is simply not available, to the patient's detriment.

As any artist worthy of the name will tell you, emotions are not lights. While one can be visibly angry or visibly sad, the emotions are not only highly variable in strength, but change with little apparent provocation (at least in the eyes of those who are unfamiliar with the emotions and the person experiencing them). It will be a long time, if ever, before a mere pill can truly save us from ourselves on that level.

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