The Bottom of the Well
There are days.
I mean there are bad days, obviously, where the events hit you like a sucker-punch to the gut, and I am talking about those. But I’m also talking about the good days; ones that fly by in a blaze of colour and electric joy. I’m also talking about the days in between. The ones that tromp past unnoticed: drudgery and work, errands and taxes. Stuff. They usually harbour a few pleasant interactions, a few forgettable ones, and suddenly you’re in bed, falling into tomorrow without a particular memory worth filing into the log.
There are days.
The ones which are a clock’s tick. A lonely trudge toward the welcoming arms of merciful death.
Depression isn’t an emotional state – it isn’t sad, as such. It’s a physical state. It’s a depression in the road, an inescapable dip through which all traffic must pass. It’s a sinkhole. A well.
There are days and days and days I spend at the bottom of the well.
Anyone that knows what I mean, knows it all too well. Anyone who doesn’t might never understand.
I spent much of the last 2 years at the bottom of the well. It’s dark. The walls are smooth. There is no rope, no ladder, nor any reason to escape. It’s hopelessness incarnate. I thought I might die down there. When you’re at the bottom of the well, you’re alone among friends, you’re sad when smiling, you talk of the future even though you don’t believe there is one. When you’re at the bottom of the well, there is only the well, and the cruel reminder that just up there, out past that dot of bright light at the top of the impossible shaft, everyone (and you do believe it’s everyone), is having an electric, joyful day.
Much of the last few months, I’ve been trying to discover the way out. But what can one learn limited by such geography, immobilized at the bottom?
Well. Quite a lot as it turns out.
Somewhere around 200 BC a Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes was the first to measure the circumference of the earth. All he needed was two wells, in two different towns. He knew if you looked into a well in Swenet (situated, as it happens, directly on the tropic of Cancer), that at the sun’s zenith, your shadow would block the reflection of the sun from shining straight down off the water. However on the same day in Alexandria this was not the case: the sun shone into the well at an angle, creating a shadow. By measuring the angle he determined what section of an arc equated to the distance between the two towns, and from that he extrapolated the first accurate measurement of the size of our ball of dirt. All without ever leaving Egypt.
It occurs to me that I haven’t been looking at my well in the right way. I’ve been seeing it as a trap. Eratosthenes clearly saw a well as an astronomical tool. Sssso… that’s pretty different. And really what are wells for? To give life by giving water. They are a cornerstone of civilization. And all I can seem to do is sit at the bottom of one?
I’ve been scrabbling at the sides trying to get out for so long, perhaps I have forgotten that I’m looking at it the wrong way, as a puzzle with only two solutions. Either scramble upwards, or dig more deeply. But as is so often the reality, it turns out that that dilemma is a manufactured consent – there are a host of third alternatives one fails outright to even consider. My solution? Fill the well!
I’ve decided to write, and I’ve been doing that more. I’ve been listening to more music. Paying more attention to art and politics, and somehow, suddenly, the top doesn’t seem so far up anymore. There’s more and more water floating me up towards those electric joyful days, or at least towards the gut-punchingly sad ones. Either way, I’ll take them.
My well is not as bleak and dark as it once was, thanks to this. Now its… refreshing.