Depression is the epidemic in our current world.  Fifteen percent of the prescriptions written by doctors are anti-depressants.  In March 2017, the World Health Organization declared that depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. More than 300 million people are living with it, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015.  Drugs and alcohol are being self administered in a tsunami of off label self medicating.  The opioid addiction and overdose problem(as many people die every three weeks from opiate overdose as died in 9/11) usually begins with chronic pain(one of the ways depression camouflages itself). Scratch at the surface of any addict(or any addiction) and what you will find underneath is a depression. 

     Depression is a disorder of the brain, whose structure is a result of two million years of evolution.  It is composed of roughly 100 billion neurons.  That's a big number isn't it?  Does it remind you of anything?  The milky way, the galaxy that contains our Sun(and our Earth), has roughly 100 billion stars in it.  So let's look at this synchronistically for a moment.  A human brain has roughly the same number of neurons as our galaxy has stars.  Coincidence?  If it is, it is an unusual one.  But for the sake of imagining the purpose of our brains, let's assume that it isn't.  Let's assume that these numbers are two acausal coincidences united by meaning.  For the purpose of this essay, let's posit that a human brain is a localized representation of the galaxy it inhabits, and is designed to navigate it.   It makes you wonder about the brain's purpose, and about how form follows function.  This same manifestation can be seen anytime you are outside.  Look at plants or trees, whether you are in a city or in nature, and you can see localized microcosms of our galaxy. The intelligent patterns that dictate the growth of the branches and leaves of trees, is a localized fractal representation of the same energies that give shape to galaxies and universes.   Those patterns are outside your window right now, and those patterns are inside your skull.  

     So what are our brains designed for? How have they been used to shape their current structure, and how are they being used in our modern world that so many people are needing medication solely to function day to day.  A brain is designed to decipher the messages provided by the nervous system that springs forth from it to gather information from the environment.  It uses this information to construct a hologram for itself of its' place in time and space according to the information it is being provided. It sees, it smells, it feels, it moves a body. The brain makes judgements to avoid threats and it pursues benefits.  That is what it has been designed for. Every brain does this differently, and we can assume that every brain creates a unique hologram.  Art, in all its forms, has always been the expression of the individual hologram.  But how is our brain being used today?

    Our brains have been designed by eons of engagement with our physical environments.  To remember and make mental maps of where we have been, and to imagine where we are going.  To track animals that we may wish to eat, and avoid those that may wish to eat us.  To sense an approaching change in the weather, and to determine how many hours of sunlight are left in the day. To be able to intuit from the unconscious communications of a previously unknown person whether they intend us benefit or harm.  Our brains are designed to decipher our environment to maximize the chances of our survival. 

     Here's what our brains aren't designed to do.  They're not designed to cope with trauma, whether from childhood, or later.  Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse causes consciousness to repeatedly cycle within a limited area of utility.  If trauma occurs it's difficult to cycle out of the area of the brain that stores it, but it is possible, and more importantly desirable.  The brain is also not designed to deal with the structures of modernity. It is the only brain in the mammalian kingdom that has been required to do this. But urban environments are something our two million year old brains have been engaged with for just a millenia.  Cars, our major form of transport have been with us, for less than a hundred years of our two million year evolution.  Streets, urban grids, artificial lighting, all of these things are very recent additions to our experience.   But if you really want to look at the most recent addition and the biggest challenge to the functioning of our two million year old brains look no further than the tool you are using to read this essay, the personal computer. 

     Personal computers have been a part of the human experience for less than 30 years of our two million year odyssey.  They have usurped numerous functions that used to require an engagement with the world outside your screen.   Recall the last time you stepped outside to check the approaching weather, rather than looking at a forecast on a computer.  Shopping, which once required at least navigating a civilized grid, has now been usurped by a computer screen.  Our news, our purchases, but worst of all our relationships have all been funneled through the experience of the personal computer.  Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks have become substitutes for the challenges posed by real experiences with our acquaintances and our friends.  People wishing to meet and date other unknown people no longer have faith in a chance encounter(though there is no such thing). Instead they search on their computer for people who appear to be appealing and in need of social or sexual contact. 

     More and more our days which have been designed to be experienced through the use of an expansive neural network which is a localized manifestation of the galaxy in which we live, are being exercised in a smaller and smaller domains.  Experiences that once required all our senses and all the brains capacity have been reduced to sitting, typing, looking at a screen and processing pixilated information.  You want to find the source of the depression that cradles the modern world in it's arms, this is it. .  A brain structured like the galaxy, sits staring at a fifteen inch screen, in search of meaning and purpose.  The antidote for this is a brain returning to utilizing its' capacities and reconnecting with its' origins.


Robert Mitchell