Nothing like a few soothing, idyllic nature photos to cheer you up once in while!
An often-made comparison is that of our mind to a landscape. From that metaphorical point of view, there are hills and lakes and plains and forests inside your head. A landscape that over the years has found its shape and has become very familiar to you: you, your personality, is what it is.
Your essential feelings stream through that landscape like meandering creeks and rivers; your thoughts roam along its tracks like wandering foxes and deer; your memories come sailing along and drift away like birds in the air; the focus of your attention is like the sun overhead brightening some parts of the landscape and emphasizing other things by casting shadows. When you go to sleep, night falls over this landscape but still there is life: the rustling, furtive scurrying of your dreams.
When you are memorizing things, this is like building some cabins and sheds in that landscape. When you feel sad, this is like pouring rain drenching everything. When you are rationally organizing your thoughts, this is like constructing roads and demarcating farm fields in some places. When occasionally you have a fit of anger, this is like the sudden eruption of a volcano. When you are being creative, this is like going on an adventurous hike into your own unknown wild regions.
Your mindscape is populated by hidden impulses moving like harmless little rabbits but by hungry, aggressive wolves as well; in some spots it offers beautiful orchids of love and happiness but it can also have nasty poisonous weeds of jealousy and bitterness; it grows firm and robust trees of experience in one place but in other places it leaves the decaying remnants of oblivion.
Today I happened to sit wondering about the landscape of a depressed mind. Now what would that look like?
In the middle of the night of June 30, 1908, the sky over London brightened. Birds, taking it for daybreak, began to sing. What was happening?
Far away, over Eastern Siberia, a huge comet-like meteor had entered the atmosphere. It shone like the sun, and a few hours later hit the earth with a massive, shattering explosion. Luckily it came down in the birch-and-fir forests of Tunguska, a remote, almost uninhabited region. The impact (in fact an explosion in the air instead of a full impact) was so huge it completely devastated a very large area. Even hundreds of miles away, it was seen as a blinding flash, followed by a very strong, hot blast, which in turn was followed by an earthquake. At that far distance it still destroyed village roof tops, broke windows, and blew people off their feet.
Because of the political turmoil in Russia before and after the First World War, it took until 1927 before an expedition arrived in the region. They interviewed the few people who from a safe distance had witnessed the event, and observed the site for themselves. What they found was an endless, desolate landscape. Something we may call, literally, a depressed landscape.
So does your mind’s landscape look and feel like this? Dead and destroyed? Hardly a tree left standing, wherever you go? Have all those reindeer that used to happily roam your mindscape been vaporized, blown to pieces, smashed? Is there just uncanny silence instead of bird song in your head? Have the dancing rabbits of your thoughts been reduced to bleached, stray skulls and bones? Has every leaf, every inch of earth, every brittle or tender thing in your mind been scorched black?
Then, I’m afraid, I have to diagnose you with the Tunguska Syndrome. Looking at the landscape of your mind, I can only conclude you are indeed severely depressed.
Still, there are signs of hope, too. The photo above shows not just devastation. It also shows how a few lone trees have already managed to re-grow. And if back then they could have made a color photo, no doubt here in this same photo you would also have seen splotches of fresh green grass sprouting from the blackened earth.
Here is a recent Tunguska photo. No doubt today in this area you will still see the lasting scars of the impact, and maybe a little of what’s left of all those blown-away trees. But clearly vegetation does flourish and I guess wildlife will abound there again. This landscape appears to have recovered from its near-death experience. Or should we say: from its depression?
Nature has the potential to rebound.
And so have you.
• tip: Ever tried to chart the landscape of your own mind? Close your eyes and try taking a virtual tour. Use a little imagination to create what you think your mindscape would look like. You might be surprised: there’s always much more of value there than you might think.
• note 1: Of course I do know that depression does, for the most of us, not destroy our mindscape in one single blast, in one sudden flash. More often it slowly takes possession of our mind, gradually destroying our virtual landscape: not like an exploding meteor, but more like a poisoned river.
So in this mind-landscape comparison I was not primarily looking at the event itself, but more at the result.
• note 2: Of the photo pair, the first one is not an actual photo of Tunguska before the event (they don’t exist). The second one is real. It was taken in 1927 when the expedition entered the area.
• note 3: Lots of info about the “Tunguska Event”, including scientific theories and some of the eyewitness accounts, can be found at Wikipedia’s Tunguska page.