American men’s path to addictions and depression are paved with good intentions. Deliverance from addictions and stress can come from pursuing our “useless” creative hobbies.
In these increasingly difficult economic times, we often get submerged under a lie that upholds the “American Dream” —every moment of our waking lives as men must be spent “productively.” Of course, our American materialistic, and “capitalism-on-steroids” mentality, that mean economically productive. Your expenditure of time, unless you are making money for you or your family, is a waste. That is the golden lie that crushes many American men. We must, as that great American philosopher “50 Cent” proposed, “Get Rich or Die Trying.” That premise is as American as apple pie.
Having traveled extensively this past year in Africa and Europe, I have been exposed to an alternative reality. Life in these lands, unlike my land of birth, does not exclusively center around work and money. They actually leave work at 5:00 pm, and spend copious amounts of time socializing and relaxing.
In the U.S., you get on the average two weeks of vacation per year. Ten work days out of every 365 days a year to “Do You.” Crazy. Weekends? (for those who are lucky enough to have work benefits nowadays). You spend those precious hours fixing crap in your house, shopping for crap you could not get during the week, and family commitments. Most American males spend their entire years less like free men, and more like prisoners on a home furlough from prison.
The “ankle bracelet” of your furlough is your debit card connected to your broke-ass bank account. You got to keep working to death, and stay within the boundaries, or else! Else what? You will be deemed an irresponsible, communistic “bum” if you step out of line, take a day off when you are not sick, or leave your wife and kids to themselves on a Saturday afternoon. But, the exception to this is simple and easy—self-medicate yourself in midst of your burdensome responsibilities. That is the American Way!
You can slow drink a 12 pack as you amble through your Saturday yard work, chug a few as you watch the game with your friends, or weekend binge in general (as long as you show up sober on Monday like a good “Worker Bee”). All that is perfectly acceptable behavior to fit in as a cog into the financial corporate infrastructure designed by the social engineers at Goldman Sachs, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Federal Reserve. All those sacred entities intent on keeping the Gross National Product and the Dow Jones Industrial up at all costs—including the costs of your individual health and sanity. Your death is mere collateral damage for the machine to keep running.
God forbid you should step out of “The Grind” for two hours to pick up an art brush, go to a writer’s camp, watch a local theater production, or (crime upon crime) practice the guitar! To commit such heinous crimes towards the Sacred Cow of Capitalism, is to be exposed to ridicule and interrogation as to your mental health status—“He must be going through a mid-life crisis.”
Over my nearly 40 years of working fulltime and supporting myself and my family, I have seen many men (including close family) drop by the wayside from “The Grind” trying to be the money machines that American society demands them to be. The dreadful toll manifest as alcoholism, drug abuse (“pharmaceuticals abuse is O.K., right? They come from the Doctor with a Medical Degree”), and premature heart attacks. 80% of modern disease is caused by stress, and much of that stress in the America is around finances.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”— Henry David Thoreau
We literally pay with our lives, fulfilling Henry David Thoreau’s diagnosis of modern man: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” We feel we have no room for error navigating our tentative financial resources through the obstacles our almighty fiscal lords have laid before us, so we steer straight ahead full speed—often crashing against the rocks of a health crisis, mental breakdown, and serious addictions (name your “brand”; drugs, sexual, alcohol, tobacco, internet, work, etc.)
While we all strive so hard to prove we are not shiftless deadbeats (like our Dads maybe?) we lose our souls. Some believe humans are made in the image of God. Imagine that premise to be true for a second. God, if “it/he/she” is anything, is a Creator. We, being made in the image of a Creator, must be designed to create. It is in our D.N.A. Even our allegedly “starving” hunter-gather forefathers took time to bust out some cave paintings. Yet, when we as modern man seek to create, our sexual orientation, sanity, and moral worth are called into question. “Art for art’s sake?” Get real.
Yet, those of us who have worked with men who have fought depression and addictions can affirm there is an odd connection between the need to create and the need to “use,” say drugs, for example. Both release tension that is pent up. Both release that wonderful chemical mix of neuro-hormones (dopamine, serotonin, etc.) that biologically deliver us to happy land.
Whether your act of creativity is perfecting a Qigong or Tai Chi move, stroking an art brush over paper, writing a poem (or article for “Good Men Project”), or handcrafting wood—do something creative. Do “art for art’s sake.” It is in your D.N.A. To deny that hardwiring will drive us men to destruction—through addictions, stress, or depression.