"The sadness of Yasunari Kawabata"
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - April 24, 2018 - 12:00am

I put quotation marks in the title because this is the actual title of an article I read many years ago. I was part of an SGV team that was working to rationalize the Management Information System of the Central Bank of the Philippines, after their mainframe computer was installed. During lunch breaks I had access to the library of the CB Governor and I came upon this article in a literary magazine. This week seems to be a good time for a column about "depression" which has been in the news lately after Mariah Carey confessed about her bipolar condition and bouts of depression, and the claim of the missing housewife that a temporary depression causing her short disappearance. There were also events of persons I know who suffered depression and some of them had fatal consequences. Then, there is the anticipated depression among the Boracay residents with the closure of Boracay for six months.

While not claiming expertise on depression, and the impossibility of significant discussion of the topic in less than 600 words, there are recent medical findings/bulletins about the topic that are worth knowing and exploring. Psychogenic and psychosomatic illnesses have always been an interesting field in medicine and depression is along this alley.

Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings, and sense of well-being. Everyone gets this once in a while and when it is temporary, it is not a problem. It becomes a problem when it gets chronic and long-lasting and totally disrupts the way of life of an individual. Certain sudden events in life, like a loss of a job, a death in the family, or loss of a great love may trigger temporary depression. Genetics and diseases may also alter the chemical balance in a person's electrical network that will cause depression. But the interesting issue is whether the person's environment and behavior will influence the chemical imbalance or the other way around. This is a classic "nature vs. nurture" problem. I am of the opinion that nurture greatly influences nature, and this is validated by the transitory episodes of most cases of depression when the person has tremendous family and social support. Even tragic events are eventually passed and life goes on for people who are surrounded and supported by family and friends. The positive mindset gets back on track when there is a strong social network and support. The mind somehow corrects the chemical/electrical imbalance when nature and environment are supportive.

The predicted increase of depressed persons in Boracay might be economic related due to the massive job losses, but there is really no direct correlation between depression and economic classes. There is the same proportion of depressed persons in all economic classes. Anecdotal evidence would point out that the poor are too busy trying to earn a living to get depressed, but in reality, it is because rich people who get depressed are more newsworthy and interesting. It is also more democratically leveling and consoling when a rich person who has everything has mental problems. The more probable cause of chronic depression is a conflicted life. Persons who cannot reconcile their actions to their inner convictions and ingrained morals have unresolvable anxiety which may be the cause of serious depression.

Yasunari Kawabata was a Japanese Nobel Prize novelist. He was orphaned at the age of four and led a very sad life which was reflected in his novels which were filled with loneliness and melancholy. He was reported to have killed himself in 1972 after the death of his friend Mishima, the Japanese nihilist poet. I am more inclined to believe that Kawabata killed himself accidentally, because he obviously had overcome his depression, especially after he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and he died at age 73.


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