“How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!”
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Feeling burnt out, depressed, lonely and stupid today. I didn’t get the job at the Very Important Organisation. They give applicants graded feedback; mine was pretty poor, a mixture of threes and fours (out of seven) with a two for effective decision making. You could put that down to autistic executive function issues, or plain indecisiveness.
I had no energy or enthusiasm for anything, but I forced myself out for an hour or so. Mostly walking, some shopping and I closed a bank account that had a ridiculously small interest rate. I bought the lentils I couldn’t get yesterday, but felt too exhausted to go and get a bat mitzvah card for my rabbi mentor’s daughter and so came home.
My mind is visual in some ways and sometimes throws up fantasies or daydreams using imagery from TV or film. I think I daydream more, or more immaturely, than someone my age should be doing. It can become quite absorbing, even frighteningly so, particularly when I’m depressed and agitated. When I was out I had disturbing, agitated mental images of being cornered and outgunned, Blake’s 7-finale style, or chained to a bomb that could explode at any moment. I’m not sure if the bomb represented the world or my psyche; I’m not convinced that either is in particularly good shape.
I feel that the world might self-destruct under the weight of its iniquities and inequities any time soon; my psyche might collapse under the weight of stress and internal contradictions. In Politics vs Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels, George Orwell writes of people like Jonathan Swift who can’t enjoy the world and have no expectations from the next world and that such people end up wanting to stop anyone enjoying anything, “the envy of the ghost for the living” adding that “Swift ultimately blew everything to pieces in the only way that was feasible before the atomic bomb – that is, he went mad”. I feel that I could join him, one day. I don’t really want to stop other people being happy, I just want to get some small modicum of happiness for myself, but it doesn’t seem to be possible.
When I got home, I was still too depressed and exhausted to make job applications or to do any Torah study (I managed ten minutes or so in the end), so I worked on redrafting my Doctor Who book. It says a lot that I was able to spend nearly two hours working on that more or less uninterrupted (or unprocrastinated), which is not something I have managed when working on job applications. I now have completed third drafts of all fourteen existing chapters, although I’m still re-watching the most recent episodes for research for a fifteenth chapter that will need writing from scratch to cover Jodie Whittaker’s first year in the role.
I’m still not hugely happy with what I’ve written, but it’s hard to see what I should change. I’m not good at judging my own work at the best of times and having worked on this for six years or more, it could probably do with a fresh pair of eyes, so I need to decide whether to ask my fan friends to read some chapters. That would probably be more worthwhile than attempting a fourth draft without outside input, but my fan friends all have major life crises at the moment and I’m reluctant to ask any of them. Plus, I don’t take criticism well and am worried that even constructive criticism could send me further downwards on a “I’m useless” spiral.
I intended to watch another episode of Doctor Who as research tonight, but the next episode is Rosa (about Rosa Parks) I’m too tired for such a heavy-going episode, so tonight will be a Blake’s 7 night (I’m currently mixing Doctor Who series eleven with a Blake’s 7 marathon).
It’s hard to tell how much I like to keep my political and religious views to myself and how much I feel I have to from not fitting in. There’s an old joke about Modern Orthodox Jews that, “The people I can pray with, I can’t talk to; the people I talk to, I can’t pray with” meaning Modern Orthodox Jews are open to modernity and postmodernity and its arguments in academic and culture, but can’t talk about that with Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews; conversely, they can have intellectual discussions with non-religious academics and non-Orthodox Jews, but can’t pray with them as they believe differently or not at all. I feel that a lot, albeit not as much as I did when I worked in a non-Orthodox religious institution.
In addition to this, lately I have been aware that many of my friends would side differently to me on some major political issues and I wonder what they would think about me if they knew. I usually keep my views quite even when they post things I find questionable or upsetting on their blogs. Not using Twitter or Facebook makes this a little easier, but it can be hard. This happens at depression group too, where one person in particular has strong political views and can be rude and dismissive of people who vote differently. I’ve never said anything, and I’m sure he thinks I’m too nice to vote for… (or else he just doesn’t care).
Actually, I wonder what people think about me generally. I sometimes wonder if the non-religious people I encounter at work, in fandom and on the blogosphere think I’m a ‘normal’ person, or at least a normal geek person, except for this weird quirk that I believe in God, and in a very legalistic and old-fashioned God at that, and have taken on lots of bizarre rituals. They probably don’t really think like that (they’re too polite for one thing). And, of course, I worry that if the people from my shul (synagogue) found out about my ‘modern’ beliefs and geeky interests, that would also be seen as crossing a line.
I guess it boils down to this: I have friends who have religious and political opinions and lifestyle choices I disagree with (from a Jewish point of view, the whole concept of “lifestyle choices” is fraught with difficulty as it assumes our lives are ours to deal with as we see fit, an idea that Orthodox Judaism would reject, arguing we’re called to a mission regardless of our desires and choices), but I make an effort to stay friends with them, because I don’t think you should ruin a friendship for politics or religion. I know that makes me unusual, both in the Orthodox community (where people usually socialise with other Orthodox Jews, to avoid these kinds of situations and potential negative religious influences) and in the world at large, where people are mostly friends with people who hold similar views. We have got used to hearing of families and friendships broken by Brexit or Trump. So I suppose it’s natural that I wonder what the people I encounter are thinking and whether I really need to hide so much of my life from people.
That said, I feel so disillusioned and disenfranchised with the current political situation that I’m glad to have a reason not to talk politics, even with people who will agree with me. It seems to me lately that we have a duty to save as much of life as we can from people who drag their angry and aggressive politics into everything. I appreciate there is a role for political art and literature, but it’s a relief nowadays to find things that are beautiful for purely aesthetic reasons. I suppose I can’t live in my ivory tower forever, but I can try.
If I confound expectation and manage to procreate, my eldest child’s teddy is now likely to be called Fardels Bear.