Dark Sun of Melancholia 2011

Dark Sun of Melancholia 2011 - CHAPTER 7 THE DARK SUN OF...

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CHAPTER 7: THE DARK SUN OF MELANCHOLIA Recently I read a long letter from a psychiatrist detailing his treatment of a very depressed artist, a woman whose chronic misery influenced her photography. She was very successful in her work, which showed a genius for capturing in pictures excruciating moments of human tragedy. The doctor told her she should try antidepressant medication, because, as he put it, “Depression is a disease that is treatable, and it makes no sense to suffer unnecessarily.” She was worried though that taking pills would somehow affect her art. The psychiatrist reassured her that she would have even more energy to bring to her photography and that there was no danger at all. So she agreed and embarked upon a course of medication to relieve her very gloomy moods. After a period of weeks, the intensity of the depression from which she suffered did indeed begin to recede. But she also noticed that she had lost interest in photographing tragedy, and that she wanted to take pictures of people in joyful scenes instead. A problem arose because the new photographs were technically of the highest quality, but no one cared about viewing or purchasing images of happiness. So her career as an artist fell apart. The patient became very upset, thinking that the medication had indeed destroyed the basis for her art. So she stopped the medication, and, after a period, her misery reappeared. Now she was able to return to her work as a photographer of tragedy, but she also had again begun to suffer, even more severely than before. Finally, after many back and forth moments, she resumed the antidepressant medications, accepting the fact that her passion for her art was changing irrevocably. The psychiatrist, in his letter, raised the question as to whether this treatment should be called a success. The patient’s pain had lessened, but her career as a photographer of the dark moments of human existence had been brought to an end. Suffering was substantially relieved, but at the expense of a very creative artist’s lifework. The doctor did not say what his patient had done as an alternative, but I think she found some other way of supporting herself, and cried less. 1
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Here are my reactions to this physician’s letter. An artist has been silenced, perhaps destroyed. It is to the credit of the doctor who wrote about this so-called treatment that he at least questioned its result. But it is also to his discredit, because he has suppressed an artist, whose work, like that of all artists, had a truth to tell. The patient is perhaps smiling more, but my question about all that is: So what? Who said a person should smile more and cry less? Who determined that less suffering is to be recommended over more suffering? I do not believe God informed us of that principle of life. What if there is good reason for that suffering? What if there is a context in the photographer’s world that is the source of her sense of the tragic, her resonance with human despair? What if her
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This note was uploaded on 02/02/2012 for the course 830 340 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Rutgers.

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Dark Sun of Melancholia 2011 - CHAPTER 7 THE DARK SUN OF...

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