Friday, August 12, 2011

Cures for Melancholia




It's come to my attention that if you read a whole random letter by John Stuart Mill, you can regain enough lift to constitute actual happiness. Here's one, picked for size and shape. Have a listen for fun if you are already feeling fine. But you have to read every word for the antidepressant. The whole time you are reading, try to imagine yourself as Mill, typing this out on an old Victrola to Carlyle. What is John Stuart saying?

No, I know I'm being silly so you don't know whether to trust me, but trust me. If you carefully read every word of this letter you will feel great. I did it and I feel great. Why? Well, I'll tell you at the end of the letter.

TO THOMAS CARLYLE
India House
8th August 1837
My dear Carlyle
The immediate object of my writing to you is to ask you whether you can manage to give me (if it be still in existence) a letter which I wrote to you in 1833 after my return from Paris, in which I said a great deal about Carrel. I have to write something about him for the review, & it would be of great service to me were I able to refer back to what I wrote in the freshness of my impressions.
It is a great bore to me having to write anything just now, except my book, which I am getting on with, fast & satisfactorily. But it cannot be helped.
The book I think will be a good book; which is more than I would venture to say of any other book which I could attempt to write just now. One good thing that it will do is, it will let you & me see whether we really differ, & if so, how far, without the fruitless attempt to become intelligible to each other by spoken words on a subject so complicated & on which so many of the premisses have to be settled beforehand. Certainly we should, at present, differ much in our language, but I question whether our opinions are so widely apart as they may seem. You call Logic the art of telling others what you believe. I call it, the art, not certainly of knowing things, but of knowing whether you know them or not: not of finding out the truth, but of deciding whether it is the truth that you have found out. Of course I do not think that Logic suffices for this without any thing else. I believe in spectacles, but I think eyes necessary too. Neither do I mean by Logic, the Aristotelian way solely, or even mainly; nay, that I do consider to be only a way of stating a process of thought, not itself a process of thought at all. I do not think that I can explain myself any farther in fewer words than my book will consist of. Thanks for your promise of reading it, which I did not more than half expect, & did not at all think myself entitled to claim.
I suppose you saw the three columns of the Times on your three volumes. Mr Sterling I suppose wrote it, & no doubt sent it to you—at least that is the belief I try to entertain whenever my conscience twits me that I did not. In case you have not seen it, I can give you in few words a summary of its contents: That the stile is nearly the worst possible, everything else nearly the best possible. The writer does not seem to be aware that this is something very like a contradiction in terms. But it is well meant, & cannot but give you many readers & Fraser some buyers who would not otherwise have been had.—However I fully sympathize in your wish to forget the book entirely—I promise you I shall forget mine, soon enough after it is published—nay probably before.
I am very glad you are resting yourself by doing nothing. I am resting myself by doing something—something which is not mere every day business, but allows me & requires me to exert my best (or some of my best) faculties. In truth I have not, for years before, had a mind free from occupation with pettinesses. That is the only true meaning of leisure—choice of work. It is not good for everybody, nor for anybody at all times: for me, just at present, it is good, & I am consequently happier than I have ever been since I had it last. I get a great deal into the country too, among trees & green fields, though with a very small share of rivulets & altogether without the Solway tide waves you speak of.
On the whole things go well with me, not the less so because I am as you say of yourself “sadder” than I have ever been—
Ever affectionately
J. S. Mill

Well in this case it is because of the line that I emboldened abovely: I believe in spectacles, but I think eyes necessary too. Also of course the crazy claims about forgetting a book before it's published and the last line: On the whole things go well with me, not the less so because I am as you say of yourself “sadder” than I have ever been. 

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5 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this! (I love this part too: "I am very glad you are resting yourself by doing nothing. I am resting myself by doing something—")

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  2. I needed this today: "That is the only true meaning of leisure—choice of work." Thank you! Very much enjoyed your poem 'Love Explained' at poetryfoundation.org, which lead me here.

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  3. Will you ever post here again?

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  4. What you don't know, girl, just might kill you. Lemme explain. Think about saving your indelible soul first; then, lissen to wisdom and re-grow thy brain in this lifelong demise. If God doesn’t exist, why do you hate Him so much? If God does exist, why don’t you follow us Home to Heaven Above if you‘re gonna croak as I am? How long do we have to enjoy this finite existence? 77ish, measly years? Compared to the length and breadth of eternity, 77ish years is faaar LESS than a nanometer in the whole, bloody, universe. Why don’t we have a BIG-ol, rokk-our-holy-soxx, party-hardy celebrating our resurrection for many eons? Heaven TOTALLY kicks-ass for eternity. Yes, God’s odd, yet, aren't we? Thank you proFUSEly, for the wick is running out on U.S._thewarningsecondcoming.com_

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