Black swans, black pearls and darkness visible

I’m with Jeff Frankel on the term “Black Swan”:

“Black swan” should refer to something else: an event that is considered virtually impossible by those whose frame of reference is limited in time and geographical area, but not by those who consider other countries and other decades or centuries.

The origin of the black swan metaphor was the belief that all swans are white, a conclusion that a 19th-century Englishman might have reached based on a lifetime of personal observation and David Hume’s principle of induction. But ornithologists already knew that black swans existed in Australia, having discovered them in 1697.  They should not have been viewed as “unthinkable.”

Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath had a fun riff on this original sense of the metaphor in Bullets Over Broadway, when mobster Nick gives his girlfriend Olive a strand of black pearls:

OLIVE: What is it?

NICK: Pearls. What the hell do you think they are?

OLIVE: Pearls are white.

NICK: These are black pearls.

OLIVE: Oh, don’t give me that. I never heard of black pearls.

NICK: Just because you never heard of them don’t mean it don’t exist.

OLIVE: What do think I am, some kind of chump? They’re black for God’s sake. They probably came from defective oysters.

My own experience with black swans isn’t metaphorical. My college campus enlisted a trio of them to mitigate the annual invasion of Canada geese. Black swans and Canada geese really don’t get along.

* * * * * * * * *

At Wonkette, Doktor Zoom is welcoming the school year by reading ahead in our Bob Jones University Press textbook. Elements of Literature for Christian Schools, Zoom says, is “a literature textbook that ultimately argues that literature is bunk.”

The Doktor cites some impressively BobJonesian passages explaining why Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, John Ruskin and John Updike are Enemies of the Tribe, and it’s all pretty funny in a laugh-so-you-don’t-cry kind of way.

But I do almost agree with one sentence from BJU’s anti-literacy text: “A comprehensive knowledge of Joyce’s writing is not a necessary or even a healthy goal.” Anyone who’s ever gotten more than a page or two into Finnegans Wake can attest to that.

* * * * * * * * *

Chris the Cynic writes about “Advice given to depressed people.” Depression is not the same as a case of the blues, or feeling glum, or down in the dumps. “If you are a healthy person, and you feel depressed,” Chris writes, “it is a mistake to assume that’s the same as what a depressed person feels.”

Read the whole thing. If you’re fortunate enough, like me, not to know what depression is like first-hand, it may be an aid to gratitude and compassion, and a helpful guide to avoiding saying stupid things.

Let me also recommend William Styron’s Darkness Visible. The novelist chronicles and describes the severe depression that nearly took his life, but never took his keen eye or writerly detachment. To me, it seemed a remarkable attempt to bridge the gap between those of us who may never fully understand what depression means, and those who know all too well. (If you’re in the latter camp and you’ve read this book, please let me know if that’s an accurate assessment.)

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  • Poster

    long time reader, almost-first time commenter (full time cliche-user).    Was wondering what people think of the following, found at the Wonkette link:  

    “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Matthew 12:30). Education that is not purposely for Christ is against Christ.  

    It’s an incredible statement, but I was wondering if people have thoughts on the context of the initial statement. It’s easy to pull it one way or another in my head, but I lack the learned experience of many here, and I’d be interested in their thoughts. 

  • http://stanmanx.com Matt Smyczynski

    As a survivor of A Beka homeschool curriculum and a fundamentalist Christian high school, I can affirm that it’s as bad as I’m guessing you think it is.

    Everything — I mean literally everything — in Christian curriculum is turned into a tribal rallying point. For example, I had an economics textbook that began with something like, “Adam Smith was kidnapped as a child, but thankfully, God, in His infinite wisdom, saw young Adam safely returned to his family in order to grow up and create capitalism.”

    The “purposely for Christ” thing is about framing all knowledge in such a way that kids will think, “I’m smart because I’m a Christian.” The Bible says something about “paths of the sea”; some naval dude discovered ocean currents because of it! Jefferson? Totally an Evangelical! The Bible is completely scientifically accurate because one of the Psalms describes the earth as a sphere suspended in the heavens!

    And so on.

    The point isn’t to become well-educated in order to honor God with your mind; it’s about learning things (factual or otherwise) in a specifically sectarian way and training you to see everything as an Us v Them situation.

  • http://stanmanx.com Matt Smyczynski

    As a survivor of A Beka homeschool curriculum and a fundamentalist Christian high school, I can affirm that it’s as bad as I’m guessing you think it is.

    Everything — I mean literally everything — in Christian curriculum is turned into a tribal rallying point. For example, I had an economics textbook that began with something like, “Adam Smith was kidnapped as a child, but thankfully, God, in His infinite wisdom, saw young Adam safely returned to his family in order to grow up and create capitalism.”

    The “purposely for Christ” thing is about framing all knowledge in such a way that kids will think, “I’m smart because I’m a Christian.” The Bible says something about “paths of the sea”; some naval dude discovered ocean currents because of it! Jefferson? Totally an Evangelical! The Bible is completely scientifically accurate because one of the Psalms describes the earth as a sphere suspended in the heavens!

    And so on.

    The point isn’t to become well-educated in order to honor God with your mind; it’s about learning things (factual or otherwise) in a specifically sectarian way and training you to see everything as an Us v Them situation.

  • Joshua

     [Matthew 12:30 is] an incredible statement, but I was wondering if people have thoughts on the context of the initial statement. It’s easy to pull it one way or another in my head, but I lack the learned experience of many here, and I’d be interested in their thoughts.  

    On another occasion, in a similar context of faith-healing and exorcism, Jesus said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40) The Matthew quote is in response to guys claiming Jesus must himself be possessed by demons, doing some kind of weird false-flag operation. The Mark quote is when Jesus was told of another faith-healer doing similar stuff to him, and Jesus having a kind “hey, cool, don’t stop” response.

    I think both statements have a meaning of, “We are all on the same side, we should not fight amongst ourselves.” I put the difference between the quotes down to looseness of wording or recording, and Jesus being kinda pissed about being accused of being a vehicle of Beelzebub. Which I could understand.

  • D9000

    Come, come, Fred, judge not Joyce by Finnegans Wake alone. Even Ulysses is worth it, for the opening chapters and the final one … some of the bits in between, all word games and showing off, not so much. 

    I’m wondering now what BJU (alma mater of our very own and not much beloved Ian Paisley) does consider ‘literature’, if anything?

  • Twig

      there’s not a lot of stuff a non-medical professional is going to be
    able to offer as advice that stands a legitimate chance of helping
    someone with depression on the depression front.

    The most unintentionally hilarious piece of off-the-cuff, “cheer up!” completely useless advice about depression I ever got was from a licensed medical professional.  She meant well, but damn.  Just remember, people are still people, doctors or not.  They can only do what they can do.

    ““If you are a healthy person, and you feel depressed,”

    If we’re going to pretend there’s a definitive line between ‘healthy’ and ‘depressed’ with no gray areas or changes that happen over time, we’re going to miss a lot of people who are probably ‘functioning depressives,’ who can get up, walk around, get through their day and so consider themselves ‘healthy’ even though they are emotionally abusive or vacant to the people around them, or self-medicating and certain “it’s not all that bad” because they don’t show some set of specific signs for clear depression.

  • arcseconds

    ““If you are a healthy person, and you feel depressed,”

    If we’re going to pretend there’s a definitive line between ‘healthy’ and  ‘depressed’ with no gray areas or changes that happen over time..

    I think Chris’s advice to non-depressives to not generalize from moments when they’ve been feeling down to the experience of a depressed person is both excellent and necessary.

    And I don’t think the way he’s put it ‘pretends’ anything like that.   “If you are a tall person, and you can’t reach something…” doesn’t imply that there are only tall and short people with no-one in between.  

    Your point is a good one too, though.

     I’d even go as far to say that Chris’s remark also holds true of mildly depressed people generalizing to the perspective of severely depressed people: don’t generalize your experience of depression to other people, either. 

  • http://twitter.com/jclor jclor

    “A comprehensive knowledge of Joyce’s writing is not a necessary or even a healthy goal.”

    A comprehensive knowledge of Finnegan’s Wake is not even necessary for the appreciation of James Joyce.

    However, even in this sentence, you can feel the anti-literary jab: it’s not healthy to study anything too closely, unless it’s the Bible.

  • Random Lurker

    Considering this blogs treatment of the poor, and todays note on depression, I thought this might be of interest.

    At a recent family dinner party, I flabergasted my parents by saying that half the country wants to kill me.  This was prompted by my pending in-laws employment move to Australia, and I said I’d be glad to get out of here.  “What?! What’s this half the country wanting to kill you business?”  It’s really quite simple.  I’m depressed and ADHD both- at this point, I cannot work.  Between the mood swings making me unreliable, and the memory loss and borderline hallucinations when I’m in a sever bout, it doesn’t look promising that that will change either.  I rely on county mental health services for my doctors and medication.  And nearly half the country- the Republican half- wants to take away both the ACA (the only step forward in decades) and cut on county health programs.  The result would be my death by suicide due to lack of treatment.

    My mother, as only mothers can, understood immediately.  I got confused looks from my siblings, a resigned look from my wife, and a completely shocked look from my father.  Nobody really said anything and changed the subject.  I suspect my father will be voting differently this year.

  • Loki100

    I suspect my father will be voting differently this year.

    I do not know your father, but my father has a gay son and a school teacher wife. He listens to Fox News call his wife a traitor and his son a demon, and votes straight Republican even when they flat out state they will directly harm multiple members of our family.

    I don’t understand it, I can’t understand it, I have no clue what drives it. But it happens.

  • Tricksterson

    How does his wife being a school teacher make her a traitor?  And why is she still with him if that’s his attitude towards her.

  • Loki100

    Because she is in a teacher’s union. WHICH MAKES HER A GREEDY, OVERPAID PARASITIC TRAITOR TO AMERICA!

    Because they have been married for 40 years. And I think he’s more of a Eisenhower-Nixon Republican than anything. The kind of Republican who could be very pro-Environment, believe in Evolution, and actually pro-regulation of Wall Street (he thought the Frank-Dodd bill was too weak). It’s just he’s started filling his mind with Fox News over the last five years or so.

  • PJ Evans

    How does his wife being a school teacher make her a traitor?

    GOP talking point: unions are evil, public employees are evil, intellectuals are evil….

  • Lori

    Teachers unions are EVILLLLLLLLL. They want to take your money at the point of a gun, fail to teach your children to read or add, indoctrinate them into the devil-worshiping cult of evolution and give them condoms and abortions behind your back. Just evil.

  • Loki100

    Speaking as someone who has suffered through years of depression, it’s nothing like feeling sad. First off there are many different kinds of depression, and many different kinds of experiences with it.

    In my particular case, it’s like I have no energy what-so-ever, and everything feels insurmountably difficult. Generally I feel ambivalent about everything, and utterly hopeless. It’s not like feeling sad, or down at all, it’s like constantly feeling there’s no future and everything will just get worse.

  • The_L1985

    And then there’s that wonderful feeling that you can do nothing right. Strikes at all the worst possible times, too.

  • LisaP

     That is it.  That is exactly it.

  • PJ Evans

     Pushing rocks uphill every effing day. I know that one. (Antidepressant helps. It isn’t 100% helpful, but I’m not in that black hole all the time.)

  • LectorElise

     Holy shit, that is the best and most concise summery of how I experience depression that I’ve ever read. You put into words better than I ever have. Do you mind if I steal that?

  • Loki100

    Go right ahead.

    If you want to see depression in action, I have to write three pages. This is something that should have taken me, at most, three hours. It’s been two weeks and I’m still not done, because it just feels like it would take so much effort. Even though I know for a fact it would take almost no effort.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Thanks for reading, Fred.

  • Jessica_R

    And in darkness of the soul. Man, if you wrote something like this, people would fairly complain that you we’re setting up a straw man, as nobody would do something this petty and evil… 
    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2012/08/ohio-coal-miners-told-attendance-at.html

  • AnonymousSam

    Which would be the second rally event revolving around “Do what we say, or you might be fired” that I’ve heard of this year.

    Employers are now not only permitted, but encouraged to use coercion to make sure their employees vote a certain way. God, this country is going downhill so very quickly.

  • Madhabmatics

    Man, I still have a bunch of my homeschool test-booklets from when I was a lil’ kid, I totally need to go get one out of a box and post excerpts from it.

  • Tricksterson

    Swans, black or white don’t really get along with anyone.  They have a sense of territoriality that verges on the insane.  Geese aren’t much better.

  • Kiba

     I have some very…not fond memories of geese and swans. I was chased by more than a few of them when I was little. Demon spawn the lot of them.

  • Erika

    Darkness Visible is pretty good.  Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon is even better, but it’s long.

    I think a lot of advice is given to make the giver feel better. 

    Depressed people tend to be alienating.  They can even be hard to spot. In a few cases, it’s only when the person recovered that I realized that their withdrawn, caustic, self-obsessed, unkempt, helpless, paralytic state wasn’t just their personality.  Be gentle. But realize that they are going to have to work to get out.

  • The_L1985

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the webcomic Depression Comix yet. It’s a pretty good way of showing neurotypical folks just what depression feels like from the inside–and why we can’t just “snap out of it.”

  • AnonaMiss

    I just did a quick skim through the Depression Comix archives, and while I could identify with a lot of them, I was appalled by http://depressioncomix.tumblr.com/image/10529774559 .

    I’m still in recovery from a bout of depression that had been a major part of ‘my’ personality for a little over ten years. For most of that time I was aware of my condition, but thought I had to just ‘tough it out’, because a) that’s what a strong person would do, but more relevant to the image I linked, b) I believed what I had absorbed from the media that psychiatric medication effectively lobotmized you. As a high-functioning depressive, I thought I couldn’t ‘afford’ to seek treatment because of this misconception. It wasn’t until my depression got so bad that I was no longer able to function that I sought help, because I had nothing left to lose.

    While that may have been what psychiatric medications felt like twenty years ago, or even still feels like to some people, know that after the first couple weeks it takes your brain to adjust, most people on SSRIs can genuinely feel happy and sad; angry and compassionate; bright and slow; pained and comfortable.

    If anyone reading this has similarly delayed seeking help because of a fear of psychiatric drugs, please don’t. Don’t let the stereotype of the patient zonked out on antidepressants deter you from seeking treatment until you have nothing less to lose.

    [/soapbox]

  • Dan Audy

    Uggh.  That is really unfortunate given how generally good those are at portraying what being depressed is like.  

    While I’ve only had moderate success with SSRI’s it has taken my depression from completely unmanageable to occasionally manageable (though ironically from everyone else’s perspective it has gone from ‘doing ok’ to ‘occasionally manageable’ depression because they actually get to see what is really going on now).  I had the exact same fears and beliefs about anti-depressants before I started on them and believed that they would obliterate my personality and turn my into one of those generic guys who could be entertained by watching the game and going to work.  Ultimately my starting taking them was as much a suicide attempt as any other when the idea of obliteration was more appealing than continuation even if it let my body keep on moving.  Somewhat thankfully (though I recall being disappointed at the time) that isn’t how they work and it just seems to help me be capable of perceiving reality without it getting clouded over by negativity.  

  • Mark Z.

    Thank you.

    I’ll add that my depression (when untreated) had nothing to do with feeling “sad”–in fact it made me unable to feel sad. In place of “sad” I had “angry”.

  • The_L1985

    And then that poor fellow comes along who’s just trying to be nice and tells you to cheer up, and you get even angrier and snap at them.

    And then you feel guilty for snapping at them, and then angry at yourself for not seeing that they were just trying to help, and the cycle starts again. :(

  • LoneWolf343

     I once say it quoted that depression is anger without the enthusiasm. As a depression-sufferer myself, I can say that it pretty apt.

  • The_L1985

    But for some of us, they still are that bad. I took Zoloft for months before I finally decided that feeling like garbage was better than not feeling at all, and quit taking it.

    Drug side-effects are one of those things that work completely differently for different people. It’s not “wrong” that one person had a bad experience with meds while others didn’t.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Precisely this.

    And for some people a given drug works wonderfully for a while, and then doesn’t work anymore, or vice-versa, or develops new and “interesting” side-effects.

    Not to mention that sometimes it takes an exceptional amount of self-awareness to even tell whether something is a side-effect of the medication, a symptom of the original depression, a neurotypical response to something unusual in one’s environment, something entirely novel, or some combination.

    Which is to say, it’s not only personal, it’s variable for a given person.

    This is one reason it astonishes me when people think medicating depression is somehow an alternative to “dealing with it.” Do they not know any depressed people? Do they not listen?

    Medicating depression is dealing with it, and often requires far more attention and effort and intelligence than the lifestyle techniques so often endorsed by those on the outside.

     

  • PJ Evans

     It took my mother two or three tries before she found an antidepressant that she could live with – everyone’s biochemistry is a little different, and what works for one won’t work for others.

  • AnonaMiss

    My beef isn’t with the comic itself, nor the author’s experience, nor any experiences that align with them including your own; my problem is that conventional wisdom is that the ’emotionless zombie’ reaction is the typical/normal/only way that people react to antidepressants. Normalizing the worst case reaction scares people away from seeking help, and also makes them more likely to give up after trying only one variation of a treatment.

    I definitely didn’t mean to imply that there was a ‘wrong’ way to experience antidepressants, and I apologize if I came off as calling your experiences illegitimate or scolding you for reacting poorly.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     Exactly.  ADHD medications have a similar bad rep.  I do know at least one person who said it made her kid feel like a zombie, but in general ADHD meds DON’T make kids (or adults) into zombies, and the widespread belief that that’s what ADHD meds *do*, full stop, scares away a lot of people that would really benefit from the meds.

  • The Guest That Posts

    I had pretty much the same experience as you. When I was prescribed antidepressants, I had a kneejerk reaction against it. I grew up in a society with a strong bias against antidepressants, and my knowledge was very lacking. (As a kid, I was under the impression that antidepressants were basically heroin.) As it turned out, the medication brought me back to the same state I was in before I became depressed.

  • MaryKaye

    This is off topic, I’m sorry, but I have to vent a bit and this seems like a place I can do it.

    Last night my mentally ill child went on a bender that ended with him being admitted to Childrens’ Hospital.  They did an evaluation and said, “We would like to hold him overnight, but our insurance expert says that it won’t be approved, so we’re sending him home.  I’m so sorry.  This is wrong but there’s nothing I can do.”

    They did advise us to contact his two mental health practicioners, one who handles medication and one who handles counseling, both at the same institute.  I called the institute today.  They said, “Insurance will never cover two appointments in the same day, so we have a policy of never giving them.  We’re so sorry, but that means you can’t see at least one of those two people until next week–please pick one.”

    And I just want to say to all those people trumpeting how much better private insurance (and I have *good* insurance) is than the evil government bureaucracy:  Fuck you!  Fuck you!  Fuck you and the horse you rode in on!

  • Dan Audy

    Oh my goodness that is terrible.  It is bad enough to have to cope with a loved one suffering from a acute psychiatric event but to have to fight the insurance system to get treatment at the same time is just awful.  Strength and support to you.

    It makes me intensely glad that when I was involuntarily psychiatricly held that the only concerns were for my well being and health (regardless of how much I objected at the time) and not for finances and insurance.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’m so sorry, MaryKaye. I know exactly what it’s like to need to see someone now and not be able to, thanks to shit like this. I hope everything turns out all right for you and your son.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    That’s terrible!

    I often wonder how many of the people that say they’re satisfied with their current, private insurance have ever actually USED their insurance for anything beyond routine care and the occasional bout of flu or broken arm.  I’m guessing many insurance companies seem great when they’re not being asked to actually spend money on you.  It’s when you become expensive that they’ll show their true colors.

  • Joshua

    That seriously sucks. I hope and pray it works out for your child somehow.

    Sad to say, our public health system in New Zealand with the lashings of Stalinist bureaucracy is also far from perfect when dealing with mental health. Maybe not that bad, but I think often (or at least here) mental health is underfunded compared to physical health regardless of the funding model.

    People who need residential care often don’t get it here too.

  • Random Lurker

     If you’re not feeling at all, you’re on the wrong med.  They are not supposed to work like that.  It may take six months, but work with your doctor to find one that works right.  Every brain is different after all.

    Personally it took me about 4 months, and I ended up with a combination of 3 that work pretty well.  A cure it isn’t, but it gives me an almost normal range of feeling (from “always down at pitch black bottom” to “rarely down at pitch black bottom, and sometimes even normal-ish”).  I’m currently on an SSRI, an NDRI (to counteract the energy loss caused by the high dosage SSRI), and an SARI to regulate sleep (I LOVE this one.  Turns out one of the best treatments for low energy and apathy is proper sleep.)

    With the 2-3 weeks to take effect on most drugs, and the 2-3 week gradual withdrawal period before changing drugs, it can take a long time.  There’s no human way I could be employed during this process.  That’s why I have to rely on county services.

  • PJ Evans

     The SSRI I’m on has sleep (or at least drowsiness) as one of its side effects. I’m not going to complain.

  • Lori

    Oh MaryKaye, I’m so sorry. You should not being going through this while you’re struggling to help your child. I hope that someone, somewhere is able to cut through this crap and help you.

  • Twig

    In a few cases, it’s only when the person recovered that I realized that
    their withdrawn, caustic, self-obsessed, unkempt, helpless, paralytic
    state wasn’t just their personality.

    This is why I don’t like that ‘healthy’ or ‘depressed’ dichotomy.  I
    think it’s perfectly possible for people who are, in fact, suffering
    from depression to throw out the same crappy platitudes and not even
    think they have a problem.  Or to quietly suffer alone and think being miserable is just what life’s all about.

    Especially the caustic people.  How many of them are actually suffering
    from depression and either unable or willing to re-examine their
    situation in those terms?  Who might not even have the context to
    recognize it as a disease or as something separate from who they are –
    that life could be better?

    Or people who would be ‘healthy’, but social conditions (shunning, financial anxiety, isolation, abuse) erode them over time? 

    ” Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  • JustoneK

    Those comics are really pretty accurate.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    I’m beginning to wonder if depression isn’t generational in my family.  Granddad was a very angry man.  Dad is too.  I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, but recently we had a big family reunion and the thing I noticed is how much my anger looks like my father’s.

  • PJ Evans

     It can be – bipolar/unipolar certainly runs in mine. My most-senior-aunt  thinks it was from her grandfather, so that’s four generations right there.

  • renniejoy

    Hugs to you, Mary Kaye.

  • Caite

    I’m a pretty well read Aussie, and I’d never heard of black swans as metaphorical devices. Swans are black, and it’s the white imports that are rare and weird.

    Depression is a lying bastard, and I’m exhausted from fighting with him. I’m coming off my meds at the moment, to see how well I can function without them, because my circumstances and atttitude have improved heaps since I was put on them and I was feeling ready to face the world without assistance. But this week has been hard, lots of things have gone wrong, and so this morning I found myself lying in bed past 9am, feeling sorry for myself and wondering why anyone would ever get up. Life’s just crappy, you know? We’re all going to die miserable and alone, especially me because I’m such a terrible person, and the weather’s so gloomy that even the sky is feeling “meh”.

    But today, I’m going to get up. I’m going to take my tablet so I don’t get withdrawals, and I’m going to have a shower, hug my nephew for a bit and eat some cereal. I’m going to catch up on emails and arrange to go to that workshop so I can learn the skills I need for my new job starting in November. It’s going to be hard work, and exhausting, but I can get through this. And I’ll remember that no matter how little I do, so long as I keep pushing forward I’ll probably be okay.

    And tomorrow I’ll talk to my doctor about my bad week, and she’ll reassure me that this happens sometimes, that everyone has weeks were nothing goes right and they want to move to Timbuktu. And I’ll remember that I’m not meant to listen to the sad part of my brain when it tells me to give up, and I’ll consider going back to counseling and staying on the half dose of my drugs for a bit longer. And somehow, despite bad days and weeks I’ll be okay. I won’t have a happy ending, but I’ll be content, and sometimes that’s enough.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Swans are black, and it’s the white imports that are rare and weird.

    Hear, hear.

  • arcseconds

    I’m a pretty well read Aussie, and I’d never heard of black swans as metaphorical devices. 

    I’ve never heard of them as metaphorical devices either.

    Where I have heard of them used is as a standard example of the problem of induction, along with “all ravens are black” (which you can verify for yourself by checking everything that isn’t black to make sure it’s not a raven), and the tragic story of the Christmas goose who satisfies itself through induction that it’ll be fed at 8am every morning, until 8am on December the 24th, where its expectation is undermined in a dramatic fashion.

    So I think you’d have to be reading some unusual fare to encounter it.  Mind you, I’m not very literary, so for all I know it’s a cliché.

    There was a movie called Black Swan no? did that have anything to do with upset expectations?

  • EllieMurasaki

    From what I recall hearing of Black Swan, it got that name more because the characters were putting on Swan Lake, and the lead dancer in that ballet plays both Odette (white swan lady) and Odile (black swan lady). Haven’t seen it yet, though I mean to.

  • LoneWolf343

     Closest thing I can think of is when Chesterton once relayed an anecdote of a conversation he had with some young gentleman. The topic was whether scientific men could also believe in the supernatural, and Chesterton had listed off some names of those who did, and his opponent rejected them because they were Christians. Chesterton had described it as “being told to find some swans only to have my swans rejected because they weren’t black swans.”

  • Worthless Beast

    I used to work at a small zoo.  The entraceway had a pond in which swam Australian black swans.  I know they exist. Rather elegant creatures, too.

    I’m bipolar. The depression part of that is a special form of hell.  I medicate and manage, but am pretty sure the only cure for me is death.  I try to find things every day to keep me from taking the “cure.”  All I know is that if anyone tells me to pull myself up by my bootstraps, I want them to go hang themselves with their bootstaps.

  • Interleaper

    I’m so sorry, MaryKaye.

  • PJ Evans

    I remember, years ago, after my mother started taking antidepressants, she wondered how I’d been putting up with her. (She was doing the lump-on-a-log bit). I said there had been days when I considered taking her over to the senior center and leaving her there.

  • Will Hennessy

    Seriously, Fred? My evangelical Christian college campus was overrun with Canada geese as well.  Eerie…

  • GDwarf

    The Depression-medication comic is unfortunate for two main reasons: Because it plays to a stereotype that, as far as I know, is feared out of proportion to its actual occurrence and because it’s obviously the author’s actual experience, which means that they’ve had at least one bad encounter with meds. Given how much good they’ve done for me, I can’t imagine having to try and get through depression without them.

    I’ve had to talk a few people into at least giving the medication a shot, because they were absolutely terrified of being transformed into a Stepford pod-person, and I’ve seen plenty of people who go on and on about how medication is not really dealing with depression. The common belief now seems to be that any drug for mental disorders will destroy who you are without actually fixing the problem.

    Meanwhile, for me, I went from wrist-cutting (Want to know a great way to make depression even worse? Find out your pain tolerance is nil, so your attempts to self-harm are minuscule. Nothing like realizing you’re too “cowardly” to end it all to really kick you when you’re down) and wall-socket-jabbing to well-adjusted. The only side effects were mild nausea for the first couple days and that I’m now a lighter sleeper (which means that I can occasionally now remember my dreams. Never used to do that. Turns out my unconscious mind is pretty mundane).

    But yeah, every person is different. Every case of depression is different (I was mostly lethargic while feeling like my soul was being ground away. Not much anger, save at myself for how badly I’d ruined everything. There was lots of that. Still, I could (and did) go and do things, feel happy on occasion, etc. It’s just that my baseline was so incredibly low) and everyone reacts to different treatments differently. I suspect that Depression will end up being like cancer: You can’t find “a” cure for it because there’s no one cause. Different types of depression in different people will need different cures.

    On a happier note: Geese are horrid. They have no fear of humans (I’ve had one sneak up behind me, jump into the air, and make a spirited attempt to remove my head), make a huge mess, kill grass, and are noisy. Swans, I gather, are pretty much the same, only they can break your arm. On the plus side, they don’t form the same super-flocks. Still, not sure I’d trade one for the other, really.

  • Hypocee

     

    On a happier note: Geese are horrid. They have no fear of humans (I’ve
    had one sneak up behind me, jump into the air, and make a spirited
    attempt to remove my head), make a huge mess, kill grass, and are noisy.
    Swans, I gather, are pretty much the same, only they can break your
    arm. On the plus side, they don’t form the same super-flocks. Still, not
    sure I’d trade one for the other, really.

    Our</em geese are awesome :) I was skeptical about getting them, remembering vaguely from terrible days when I was as tall as a farm’s gaggle, but they’ve turned out to be enormous fun. They are inveterate bullies, but it turns out that’s hilarious when you’re bigger and meaner than them – the gander sequence is YarrI’llkillyer -> 5.7924 feet away -> Oh you are big I am so dreadfully sorry -> turn around -> Observe my bravery! I have vanquished the enemy!
    They trim and (yes, copiously) fertilize the lawn, take five delighted baths a day in a kiddie pool (sometimes slipping, flipping upside down, exploding out of it and running a lap around the barnyard), obsess over/nom poly tarps and buckets, track jets flying overhead with interest, and say hi whenever you walk by.  They’re like having a super sassy cat split up into multiple bodies.

  • Anna

    “Darkness Visible” is superb, and yes, quite accurately described my own experiences with depression, so I think it’s a good window into the condition for those who haven’t experienced it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Geese are foul-tempered bullies, but they look absolutely delicious. I have to get around to trying goose one day.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I found it kind of meh.  Taste is close to chicken but the texture is closer to duck. WHat’s really impressive though is the amount of grease a goose produces. If you roast one in a rack over a normal roasting pan, you will end up with a roasting pan pretty much full to the brim with goose fat.