“Don’t die with the music still in you..!”


“History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. ”   –  Abba Eban”

Does this apply when we lost our “spoon”?

Well, how to start this..

It is interesting to see how others and famous people dealt with their moods. Often their context and scene is very different from ours. In our day to day lives with moods and at times depression (perhaps), we may have exhausted many alternatives.

To grasp the broader meaning of  “spoon” or “spoon theory” lets start to say that this is sort of a disability metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for various and productive tasks.  Spoons are features of measurement. They are used to check how much energy a person has throughout a given day. We can’t live on one teaspoon sugar, so to say. Let’s agree this is very different on the spectrum of human diversity. That’s easy to understand. Energy levels are different, likewise the energy levels we can sustain. from our environment or others. If we lost “our spoon”, we lost incredible positive energy. That’s clear enough!

When you are affected in your mental health  through depression, excessive anxiety or being “burnt out”, the energy available for a healthy energy  “output” may be reduced at various levels and/or in different degrees.

This “reduction” is  what we may call in broader terms “lost spoon”. It  does not say anything about the levels or degrees regarding the depletion of our energies. But it means, at large, that we can’t feed ourselves anymore, sufficiently, from the energy we need because we sort of lost “our spoon”. The spoon in which can dig out of the pot of enrichments our surroundings, contacts and activities have to offer.

How far your “spoon” is lost is a different story. The most important thing is that when you lose your spoon that you try to find it again.

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But mind you, there are many “lost souls” on this planet, with “lost spoons”, unable to find back what they lost. Damaged and living on the other side of the spectrum…

Meaning in life, a reason to get out of bed,  are in most cases very helpful. Most of us are in this way fortunate, but many of us are from this point of view less fortunate.

Without generalisation, it is true that even the greatest on earth did know “the battle of the mind” at times. The struggle to compose oneself and radiate a sense of normality whilst conflicting emotions and feelings play a role in the background.

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Perhaps we all lost at times “our spoon”. Who knows. But coming back on “the greatest”.. They often had true purpose and meaning, but still they suffered in silence. At times perhaps very outspoken with elements of anger..

Abraham Lincoln, together with more famous people suffered from depression, like Winston Churchill and Mark Twain. Interesting is that they used humour as an antidote to depression. All this  to boost the spirits, Humour to replace “the spoon”, or to manage the “lost spoon” Lincoln told jokes and funny stories. Lincoln once said, “If it were not for these stories—jokes—jests I should die; they give vent—they are the vents of my moods and gloom”, said Joshua Wolf Shenk (In ” Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President). He concludes that “Humour gave Lincoln protection from his mental storms. It distracted him and gave him relief and pleasure . . . Humour also gave Lincoln a way to connect with people. In addition to humour, Joshua Wolf Shenk ( the writer of above book) discovered that Lincoln utilised other major depression antidotes, including his love of poetry and a strong belief that his life had an important purpose. As you see, and without adding too many examples, many did lose their “spoon”, but some of them had also the means to help themselves. When Lincoln e.g started to speak, started to connect with people, – his often somewhat sombre face did relax into an embracing smile. We know anyhow the value of social connections. We know as well that many mental health issues are far more common in western civilisations and less common in more open and embracing communities.

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Just one more example, an eccentric one:

Before becoming the Buddha, he was Siddhartha Gautama. According to traditional biography, he was born into royalty, his father a king who attempted to shield Siddhartha from knowledge of human suffering by removing the sick, aged and other suffering from his view. However, Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and other suffering, and then to have become deeply depressed by these sights. And at age 29, he began his journey to seek wisdom about how to overcome suffering and despair. His spiritual journey took six years, with Siddhartha ultimately rejecting popular “treatments” of his day that included asceticism, deprivation, and self-mortification.

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Siddharta’s Antidotes: At age 35, after 49 days of meditating under the Bodhi tree, he attained Enlightenment and became known as Buddha, the “Awakened One,” and one of the world’s greatest antidotes to the suffering of depression was born. Buddhism begins with understanding truths about suffering. Specifically Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths are that (1) suffering is an inherent part of existence; (2) suffering is caused by attachment and craving, and our ignorance about this; (3) we can cut suffering by letting go of attachment and craving; and (4) this can be done by following the Noble Eightfold Path of the right understanding, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

For the remaining 45 years of his life, Buddha travelled and taught extensively. Compassion and the truth about suffering were his major antidotes to depression and despair—antidotes for himself and for others.

It would not be wise  to romanticise all depression sufferers and to celebrate all non-medical solutions. As a medical professional myself I would be against it, however those examples give some comfort perhaps, also for myself. Comfort in a sense that you may lose your “spoon” but that in compassion (through suffering) you may give back one way or the other. This is being resourceful and creative. And in this we may receive back from depleted energies: a way forward perhaps, engaging in the ongoing challenges of life.

Aeschylus once said that he who wants to learn has to suffer. For sure: he did not mean the type of learning we do at school or at Uni. He meant the learning of the soul in the pains we may have to face in our lives

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It’s not always easy to surf the waves of out mood but we learn from experience and from others and from meaning in life, like Victor Frankl once said. He lost all his family in the concentration camps during the 2nd World War and had himself to endure inhumane experiments. He had to deal with overwhelming stress afterwards but found eventually his new life in the US, where he became a well known psychiatrist emphasising on finding “meaning in life” as an antidote for depression. It helped in his case, like it assisted many others.
Paul Alexander Wolf

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