Depression: Urbanization of Matter Vs Urbanization of the Mind

Origins of Depression


Origins of Depression

Parable (1937)

Two neighbours, who were rather dense,
Considered that their mutual fence
Were more symbolic of their peace
(Which they maintained should never cease)
If each about his home and garden
Set up a more substantial warden.
Quickly they cleared away the fence
To build a wall at great expense;
And soon their little plots of ground
Were barricaded all around:
Yet still they added stone to stone,
As if they never would be done,
For when one neighbour seemed to tire
The other shouted: Higher! Higher!
Thus day by day in their unease,
They built the battlements of peace
Whose shadows, like a gathering blot,
Darkened on each neglected plot,
Until the ground, so overcast,
Became a rank and weedy waste.
Now in obsession they uprear;
Jealous and proud, and full of fear:
And, lest they halt for lack of stone,
They pull their dwelling-houses down.
At last, by their insane excess,
Their ramparts guard a wilderness;
And hate, arising out of shame,
Flares up into a wondrous flame:
They curse; they strike; they break the wall
Which buries them beneath its fall.

William Soutar

The Poem, Parable, by the Scottish Poet, William Souter, captured the state of existence in today’s world. The theme of the poem is on the destructive attitudes of man towards himself, nature and his neighbors in the guise of seeking for peace. It is about two neighbors, desperate to see that they do not have problems with one another, cut off everything and anything that could severe their peace.

Together they worked hard and tirelessly to erect structures that could improve this peace, destroying nature and their wellbeing in the process. Their lives and relationships, which should be given care and protection, were spent protecting their properties and possessions, something less. While they erected tall fences to preserve their belongings, the building of humanism was in peril but none could see it. All these were motivated by fear and insecurity.

Fear of the other’s intention. Because of this, they lost their sound health of mind, their bodies depreciated and the natural materials they burned in the process also made their habitat a very dangerous place to live. They didn’t notice what was happening to them or the environment until the structures they built to guard their peace destroyed them.

The human race is still here because of the relationships we have built over time. We have lived through thousands of years of recorded history because there was a continuous communion of the residents of the earth. There have been problems of ignorance but if we never prevailed we’d had gone extinct. Nature has always provided and treated us with the choices we make.


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Whatever action we take she pays back in effects. Our bodies have not been left out either. Because we are composed of chemicals and minerals, atoms and elements that respond to reactions, our actions to one another and nature lead to products. The human race has always gotten what they asked for. Nature and our bodies have been just.

There is an increase in depression in the land because we have sowed seeds of depression. We have built structures that allowed for depression. There is increased ozone layer depletion because we sowed seeds that allowed for the germination of ozone layer depletion. We designed and maintained structures that wore off the ozone layer.

There are wars because we planted the seeds of wars. Even though we were not consulted before we were born, we have a role to safeguard where we find ourselves. While actions and responses to one another may be unjust, how nature responds to us is just. Nature doesn’t discriminate but we do. Our scientists try to manipulate nature but what do we know?

We know that communication and cooperation are good for our health as human beings but aggressive solitude is our idea of a healthy mind. Communication and cooperation with nature also help create a positive relationship between us and nature. Epidemiologists (scientists who study the spread and control of diseases, viruses, concepts, etc., in various populations) have shown that there is a relationship between mental disorders like Depression, Schizophrenia, etc., with the residential area of an individual.

They discovered that people who live in urban communities have a higher rate of mental disorders compared to people living in the countryside or rural areas. The people who live in rural areas were mentally healthier than people living in urban communities. Despite the provisions of more basic amenities and the availability of more modern tools, individuals who lived in the urban areas were no match for those in the countryside. Stress and poor communication were largely responsible.

The people in rural areas were less stressed than the ones in the urban areas and performed better. The study showed that rural people had healthier minds than the urban. Because we (the urbanized) have shut ourselves off with modern tools, because we have erected structures and words like ‘privacy’ to live ‘better lives’, because we acted words like ‘mind your business’ and ‘how does it affect you’, because we built walls to protect ourselves from ourselves, we left the business of healthy human interaction, something good for all, for the business of narcissism clothed in solitude. And our rewards are psychotic illnesses like Depression.

In Nigeria, suicide, resulting from depression is on the rise. Something that rarely happened in the past is now becoming commonplace. A few years ago in Lagos, a young Medical Doctor jumped into the Lagoon to end it all. The stories reported in the media suggested he was from a rich family. He had attempted suicide in the past and the family, scared of a repeat, convinced him to move around with a driver who served as their eyes.

But still, the day he asked the driver to park before diving into the lagoon, nothing could stop him. He was described as a happy person and no other report from the family members suggested madness or unhappiness. He was not financially poor. He is not a member of the unemployed, uneducated and unskilled that littered the street.

It seemed like he had everything going for him but no one knew what was happening inside. No one knew the personal battles he fought every day with sanity. No one knew that what was on the surface was just an optical illusion and doesn’t meet or agree with was within. In the poem Richard Cory, Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote,

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich —yes, richer than a king
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

There are so many people in the life of Richard Cory, waiting for the breaking point to pull the trigger and go off. This is why so many celebrities do drugs. The fame, money, and power are not enough. The spotlight distances and creates a vacuum – emptiness, as a result of the life ‘expected’ of a celeb. There are so many fake human beings around them to prevent stress disorder. Empty, they fall on the psychedelic influence of drugs.

There are many happy people around who are not truly happy but pretend to be and we accept whatever they present as evidence of happiness. The reason this is so is because of the loss of healthy human association and interaction, the loss of personal and human identity, and the encouragement of solitude and selfishness.

These lead to a dangerous shedding away from the self and trust among ourselves. If we had great relationships with the people around us, if we were not brought up to consider personal aggrandizement as the principle thing, if we were brought up to work together rather than compete with each other, disappointments, as a result of failing to reach personal targets, will be rare and problem solving will be a communal thing and help our mental health.

Because we conditioned our dopamine (a substance in the body responsible for sending reward or pleasure to the brain) from childhood, through non-communal teachings and activities we got, to reward certain personal achievements, because we focused and prioritized individualism over communalism, when we fail to reach those individual set goals, our dopamine fails to inspire us and our depression process begins.

Technology has really dealt with us. While these gadgets we use make life easier, we allowed them fulfil the potential for individualism. Now words like ‘privacy’ are flying around. The same persons who use these words turn back to society to ask for a need when a problem arises. What exactly do we want? To live our lives selfishly, discouraging and encouraging human intervention when it suits us or we want the human race to unite in finding peace and true happiness?

If we are interested in finding peace of mind for the general population of our race why are we more concerned about personal peace than world peace? Even in our personal problems, when we interact and ask for help, there are elements of individualism laced around. Once we get help, we go back to that selfish lifestyle.

Now, we build physical fences to separate us from our ‘troublesome’ neighbors. We make laws to push people ( who are yet to give us trouble) out of our land but in terms of material possessions, in terms of raising and filling our pockets with money and personal properties, we pull down those walls and make the exchange. Money has become more important than human relationships.

Some may want to argue that the walls are results of the lifestyle of these neighbors but to counter that I say: if you understood your neighbor in the first place, if you loved peace in the first place, if you were more interested in fostering the cause of the human race like you claimed in the first place, there will be no need to erect them in the first place because your cooperation would have resolved the problem of lifestyle in the first place. This does not work for an insane neighbor though.

We are happily cutting trees and building giant structures and getting more urbanized. We harm nature, change her properties through the reactions we generate here, but we don’t want to see a corresponding product. How far do I have to travel to count 10 trees in Lagos, Nigeria? We are releasing toxic substances to the atmosphere, burning fuel and cracking the ozone layer. We are growing, they call it.

The primary motivational factor behind the obsession for this type of life is wealth and not health. How can a man burn himself on purpose because he wants more money to take care of himself? Why make yourself sick and rejoice in having the money to treat your sickness? We burn the protective lining shading us because we are developing. Genius! For sure nothing is wrong with this reasoning.

This is like a group of twelve, knowing they will be struck by lightning during heavy rainfall, exit the shelter into the heavy rain because the rain carried precious stones with it. In the process, six died, six were paralyzed. But the paralyzed six, rather than do something to prevent the repeat of such occurrence, preach about the strength and quality of the stones they picked.

According to the Attention Restorative Theory, people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature. Natural environments abound with “soft fascinations” which a person can reflect upon in “effortless attention”, such as clouds moving across the sky, leaves rustling in a breeze or water bubbling over rocks in a stream.

People get better faster if they surround themselves with elements of nature. Looking at nature or living around natural environments has been shown to be therapeutic. Some persons recovered faster after surgery simply by looking at the environment and natural scenes like trees and flowers. Stress can be relieved from this simple practice. But instead of planting more trees and encouraging a green environment, save for a few countries, there is a general increase in deforestation. Energy too can be transferred to a person simply by rubbing the soles of their feet on grass. Rather than build more trees and plant more flowers to help our mental health and body, we cut down trees and erect more structures.

There is a battle between the urbanization of the mind and the urbanization of matter. While the majority of humanity believes that the mind is above matter and not vice versa, the structures we have built to enhance the mind and body betray that assertion. It is at the mental level that developments responsible for other developments are built. The mind must be trained to associate with fellow mind and nature if there must be healthy human development.

While most schools, at the secondary level, prepare the student for entrepreneurship and physical health, little is taught about mental health or psychology. We are taught how to be responsible citizens, how to acquire money and live like Gates, the history of our forefathers and men who built what we enjoy today, but, the other lessons that will help us become better individuals, the mental lessons that should teach us what really should be prioritized, the principal lessons of association that will improve sanity and human-nature relationship – the urbanization of the mind, eludes our schools.

We let the urbanization of matter defeat the urbanization of the mind and pretend to live a rich life while in pain and experiencing depression. And because we built matter rather than the mind, it becomes difficult to relay to our families and friends what we are passing through when the mind is down. We are even ashamed of talking about our sorry state. At this low point, we can see our mistakes. We can the error in our learning. And because we weren’t taught how to handle it, we find it hard to believe that the same persons who didn’t train our minds will understand this issue of the mind. To us, no one can understand. And we jump out.

About Poet 171 Articles
I am Rey Alaetuo, a conscious Poet and health care professional living in Owerri, Nigeria. I am an exponent of humanism and a vigilant Poet. I am deeply interested in the propagation of positive human values and behaviour.