Sunday, November 19, 2006

Neighborhood Anti-Depressant

Neighborhood Design as Anti-Depressant

By John Taylor; 2006 November 19

A reader responds to the recent "Consultative Self-Defense" essay:

"This is one of your better essays - practical, full of guidance backed by the Writings. This should be shared by a far larger readership. Perhaps Baha'i Canada?"

Thank you kindly. Please do not speak too loud when you imply that some essays are better than others. They are all my mind children and I love each of them equally, dearly, truly. Some, like the essay you mention, give a warm glow that lasts through the rest of the day. Some, like my little eulogy for Barbara, make me cry as I write them and when I hear them (at least I did when it was read out at end of the funeral yesterday). Others, problem children, also give a lasting, day-long feeling, though then it is closer to a horrid frisson reminiscent of the screechy violins that you hear in the Hitchcock film, "Psycho." But these more regrettable efforts, these indiscretions that will surely come back and bite me on the nose someday, even these give me a feeling that this, horrid as it may be, was the best I could do with what was given me that day. In that sense they are all little prayers. Stunted, ugly round little bupki left behind by Twitchy that they may be, but in their own way they are each acts of devotion, little non-drug anti-depressants that keep me sane and on an even keel.

Whether the audience is big or small has nothing to do with it. In fact I like it small; as long as it is at least one person who reads it, I am happy. Unfortunately, Blogspot, the host of the Badi' blog, is owned by Google, which means that my old essays are turning up with increasing frequency on that search engine when people use certain keywords. Yesterday I got a response from a Muslim who begged to differ with an interpretation of the Qu'ran that I offered in the middle of some essay I wrote two or three years ago. His ideas were offered politely and in fact were quite interesting, but how long will it be before some less than nice elements of the Muslim world pick up on some of my less than favorable comments about the persecutors of Baha'is in Iran? It is bound to happen. Look at what happened when Sinclair Lewis ran for office ... his opponents went over his books with a fine toothed comb and picked out several juicy passages to use against him. He lost the election. Now you do not even have to be a famous, published writer for such unpleasantness to happen, nor do the opponents have to make the effort of reading your whole opus, thanks to the magic of search engines. And as I say, I may have written some good stuff from time to time, but it will no doubt be the indiscretions, the bupki, by which I will be judged. In the eyes of God I have faith that the good will outweigh the bad as on some invisible scales, but here, in this world, it takes one wrong word to nail me to the wall, or, worse and more likely, to nail our helpless brethren in Iran. May God protect us all.

One reason I risk the bad things that can be picked out of my research is because I can see great good potentially coming out of it too. The ideas I have dredged up from many places about travel and housing could one day have a tremendous effect on daily life. Consider this quote I cited yesterday from the book on psychiatry that I just read,

"The heavy reliance on "taking pills" to solve psychiatric problems needs to be continuously questioned. Both the medical profession and the general public must realize that drugs alone are not answers and that changes in life-styles -- combined with personal responsibilities -- are the keys to mental health." (Introducing Psychiatry, Nigel Benson and Piero, Icon Books, Cambridge, 2004, p. 169)

For me, I do not need to pop a pill, I just write an essay. Sure, it takes a few hours longer, but the effect is more certain and lasting. One thing here I would dispute, though. The solution is not just personal responsibility; it is collective, group responsibility too. The only way for everybody to be sane as individuals is to have a sane, healthy body politic.

What is more, the most recent scientific discoveries coming in over past weeks back what Benson says about the urgent need to avoid drugs. We must stop popping pills, now. For one thing, it is disastrous from an ecological point of view. The latest findings are truly hair-raising. It seems that Prozac, the most commonly prescribed anti-depressant, is getting into the streams and rivers of North America and is wiping out fresh water mussels, oysters and other crustaceans. Several species are already extinct. These creatures are what is known as a keystone species, for they in turn clean these waters of impurities. Without them, other life cannot be supported. Soon our water systems will be nothing better than an open sewer.

I know, you read that depressing news and the first thing you will do is reach into your medicine cabinet and take out the Prozac. Please, think again. Let us all think hard about how we can find joy elsewhere, without introducing unknown, untested chemicals into God's beautiful, sensitive ecosystem. The means of happiness are known, we just have to collect them together and implement them. That is just what my Instauration Manifesto is designed to implement.

One recent discovery has made me redesign my Instauration mound housing developments from the ground up. Since fortunately these structures exist only in my mind, this total renovation has been cheap and easy to do. The finding is that our immune system is supercharged by the vitamin D that our bodies make by the direct exposure of skin to sunlight. For example, one shrink happened to be running a ward in a mental hospital where, for other reasons, he was treating them with a course of Vitamin D. A flu epidemic hit and his patients were the only ward in the whole institution that did not get sick. Previous research has proven that exercise and maximal sunlight exposure also help against depression.

Before he retired from golf my father was a living demonstration of this. In the summer he was healthy and happy but as soon as it got too cold for golf, he got fat, forgetful, became weak, sickly, depressed and everything that was Sid Taylor set into decline. He especially missed the competition of the weekly golf tournament. Without it, he started to think only about his body and its every ache and pain. This was an annual pattern until, when he stopped golfing completely two years ago, the decline in general health and especially the depression accelerated. Now he is having frequent panic attacks and, yes, the doctors have put him onto anti-depressants. I am convinced that his body and the ecosystem would have been saved exposure to these foreign chemicals if there were some way for people like him to expose their skin daily to direct sunlight year round.

Bad as it gets for white people like us, the need for sunlight of people of color in northern climes is even more urgent. So this is a race and diversity issue, too. As well, it will surely become a gender and religious hot button. Think of the covered-over Muslim women of the world. It is now known that their bodies need exposure to the light, not for minutes but for hours each day. Statistical studies will probably find that they are paying a high price for modesty. Changes will have to be made, therefore, in our very definition of the virtue of modesty. Modesty is an attitude, a stance to God, it is not necessarily blocking out every inch of skin from exposure to light. In fact, as the parable of the talents teaches, it is sinful to cover over a gift of God. Sin sinks in and poisons the body, and word we have for the corruptive symptoms is "depression." I know I will regret saying this someday, but it is true.

Most improvements, I am convinced, must be done to the design of our built environment. How do we make an environment that enables full exposure to direct sunlight for so long? How can those who are too bashful to expose skin in public, do so in private? This problem has been bugging me over the past few weeks.

My proposed mound developments, you will recall, have a long southerly, sunward face that is glassed over and devoted to greenhouses, parks and gardens. The exposed street is on the north face, with living areas looking over the street. As it is, this does not give enough direct sunlight to the dwellers to maintain their mental health. Perhaps moveable reflectors could be built at the top to reflect light down and into the open balconies of the north facing apartments, especially in the morning during breakfast and in the evening during meal preparation and suppertime. In the middle of the day, when most people are in offices and places of business, the mirrors would shift there. On weekends and holidays, people could frequent the parks and gardens of the sunward face, at which time the mirrors would shine the light on solar collector panels.

Failing such comprehensive design change, we can in the meantime try to remember to open the curtains, take off the long sleeved shirts, and go on walks as often as we can in skimpy clothing. Of course when it gets too cold, we should bear in mind that pneumonia kills quicker than depression. Do it to save the mussels, if not for yourself.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Again, violence is always lose-lose, and even when you win and do everything right, you still lose. But better standing before twelve than carried by six. Violence is just a question of who and how much suffering will expiate the spiritual deficit. Ultimately, this is why the Manifestation must suffer, to expiate hearts and ready them to love and consult. It is up to us to feel that sacrificial pain, and learn from it.

Forgive me for posting this quote from an earlier essay on this one, But I was caught by the introduction and went back and read the essay referred. I would like a little more explanation, and is there any association to what is happening in Iraq?

Thank you kindly.