And Like Goliath Will Be Conquered…?

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As I’ve noted before, Real Depressed Men Don’t Cry – well, hardly ever. I’ve had Bob Dylan on my mind lately, he’s about the last person you’d think would trigger those droplet-things that have a wet way of blurring your vision. Have you seen I’m Not There
– the completely original film about dimensions of Dylan’s life captured by six different actors? The first of these is an 11-year old runaway, escaped from a youth correction facility (remember “reformatory?”), or something like that. He’s an African American kid with a guitar, and his name is Woody Guthrie. We first see him running beside a freight train and pulling himself into an open car. There are two tramps there, and he sings them a song I hadn’t heard in forever. It’s the rousing ballad of the triumph of good over evil, called When the Ship Comes In.

Now the time will come up

When the winds will stop

And the breeze will cease to be breathin’

Like the stillness in the wind

Fore the hurricane begins

The hour when the ship comes in.

As soon as I heard that fast guitar rhythm and those first words, I knew I was in trouble.

Throat choking, eye-storm threatening, wave of feeling breaking lid-tight composure, I chomped the right side of my lower lip as I do when I just won’t let that stuff rise to the surface. So I listened as that ship split the seas, shook the shoreline and ignored the “words that are used/ for to get the ship confused.” Then those sands rolled out a carpet of gold as the ship hit land:

And the ship’s wise men

Will remind you once again

That the whole wide world is watchin’

And those bad guys, the “foes,” roused from sleep, can’t believe what’s happening – but soon they see it’s real:

Then they’ll raise their hands,

Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands,

But we’ll shout from the deck your days are numbered.

Those merciless masters of war will drown like Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea “And like Goliath, will be conquered.”

Just so simple and pure as that, a beautiful power will drive the evil right out of life. Then that exploding emotion threatened my face and I fled the room, as if driven by urgent need of pit-stop time. Closing the nearest door behind me not a minute too soon, a sob lurched my throat, then another, then three – oh, man, I was in trouble! But I soon shut it down, as real depressed men do, and went out to watch more-but then got blasted with another song – and on and on. It was a tough night to be tough.

And the next day, I got out my big book of Dylan lyrics, hunted down those songs and tried (in absolute privacy, of course) to sing them through. But each time I got to something like the whole wide world is watchin’ or the first will be last and the last will be first or the chimes of freedom flashing, my tuneless voice broke, I got wet eyed and worse, and I tried to understand what the hell was going on.

Sure, it was heartbreaking to feel again the idealism and hope of the early sixties, smashed like Kennedy’s skull, then lost in the miasma of Vietnam, race riots, police riots, escapes into hallucinations and rockin’ peace and love, then more assassination, Russian tanks crushing Czechoslovakia, Nixon, Watergate and everywhere drugs, murder and laundered money. Who wouldn’t shed a tear for lost innocence and hope from a time when the revolution of the young was all but certain, when we knew it would surely sweep all injustice before it? Perhaps I was crying for that, but I could tell there was more, much more.

We’ve lived to feel a resurgence of hope right now, and who could keep eyes dry watching so stalwart a figure as Jesse Jackson listening to Obama’s victory speech with tears streaming down his face. That was triumph to be sure, all the way from chattel without status as humans under the Constitution, lynching, police beatings, voting that got a black man shot dead, the murder of one great leader after another, all the way to President of the USA. Who wouldn’t shout and sob for joy at once – even knowing how fragile the hope in great leaders is? So that was mixed up in my breaking voice, but there was more, much more.

I could cry for my own sense of loss so deep, for a grief that rolls to the surface when I least expect it – a grief I don’t fully understand. There are shadows of family, past and gone forever, broken apart, cracking the earth open right under my feet. And that happened despite – or as I believed, because of – my imagined and failed ability to hold it all together – losing the grip that secured a family, as I thought, as I hoped and hoped, when a kid of 8 or 10. The syndrome of the too young adult took hold so early, and I impressed the hell out of all the grownups. But I’ve been dealing with such loss and later disappointments and hopes that fill any life for a long, long time. A grief survives that a song can trigger, but there is still something more, so clearly much more.

And that comes back to me here and now, cautiously hopeful about a life turning onto a recovery road instead of staying fearful in a dark wood, the straight way lost. I cry in hope and fear at once. Will that Goliath who has crushed and weighted me down for so long finally be cut down to size? A depressive mind has overpowered me for far too long, and I’m on the offensive now, at last.

Will I conquer? Will I survive?

20 Responses to “And Like Goliath Will Be Conquered…?”

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  1. kim says:

    I’ve heard of Georgia and love Mare Winningham! I’ll have to check it out, thank you!

  2. John D says:

    Revellian – Thank you – your advice is always so sound and welcome. I know I can’t let what’s going on in the world determine my personal well-being, but I’ve had this social/political side forever. I guess part of my identity and sense of wholeness wants to include part of the world – that is, a part of who we are comes from a bonding with place, community, country, world. Destructiveness at any of those levels upsets a balance we’re all a part of and that we miss when it’s disrupted. I’ll need to write something on this to get to the bottom of it!

  3. Hi John! Yes, you can and are defeating your Goliath foe. I have been proving to myself each and every day that I am in control of my life and no matter what comes my way, I can cope with it, deal with it and put in in perspective.

    While I do appreciate the hope and idealism of this current generation – which is quite inspiring – I cannot base my personal happiness on what happens in the world, but if it is good, I can join in the celebration. I’ve decided that no matter what happens in society with wars, murders and all the horrors that have always plagued humankind – I must carry on and not allow it to reflect my personal security or happiness.

    I suppose in a way, I am on he offensive – much like you – taking control and simply living. I let that which does not matter go and do not hold in negativity. I’ve felt really calm and serene lately and have enjoyed it immensely. I hope and pray you continue to do the same. This is a beautiful article:)

  4. John D says:

    Stephany – I’m so happy to hear you’re feeling that kind of breakthrough. That’s a great image of coming out from a battlefield. Not only being exposed but finding the old effort and techniques aren’t needed – so what do I do now? The emotion coming to the surface is so important for me – I’m learning not to fight it so much. Feeling good, though, is just great. Bless you – John

    Clueless – Thank you! I did think the shutting down emotion was more of a guy thing, but that’s stereotyping for you. It does come out sooner or later – and what’s coming for me has been pent up for a long, long time. Glad to hear you’re a Dylan fan!

    Merely Me – Hey, I’m glad whenever you can make it – there’s always too much to cover out there. Thank you – I’m more optimistic than ever – but cautious since I’ve had good periods before that haven’t lasted. But this does feel different somehow. I have thought recently about the positive side of all the down time in the way you say – I sure know the extremes pretty well – and that helps me write about all this. Keep up your great work, especially at Health Central.

    Kim – Thank you so much – and for the Lemonade award! You are clearly headed to the offensive side, and I wish you well in getting to that tipping point. And thank you so much for reminding me of the Stephen Foster song – I can see its special meaning for you as a relative. I wonder if you’ve seen a movie from the mid-90s called Georgia. In it Mare Winningham sings a stunning version of this song – so different from the usual choral approach I’ve heard elsewhere. It is such a moving piece. My best to you – John

  5. kim says:

    A post like this is exactly why I mentioned your blog last night for some lemonade award thing.

    First of all, I’m a Dylan fan, I loved “I’m Not There”, and all six actors were brilliant. Dylan covered something a distant relative of mine, Stephen Foster, wrote:

    Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
    While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
    There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,
    Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

    ‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
    Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
    Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
    Oh Hard times, come again no more

    While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
    There are frail forms fainting at the door.
    Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
    Oh! hard times, come again no more.

    ‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
    Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
    Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
    Oh Hard times, come again no more

    There’s a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away
    With a worn heart whose better days are o’er.
    Though her voice would be merry, ’tis sighing all the day –
    Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

    ‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
    Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
    Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
    Oh Hard times, come again no more

    ‘Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
    ‘Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore,
    ‘Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave –
    Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

    ‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
    Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
    Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
    Oh Hard times, come again no more

    Tears stream every single time I read or hear these words. Knowing Stephen’s blood runs in mine and knowing he also felt so alone. I picture him sitting in his cabin fighting the demons we fight and the demons that eventually killed him at 37. He died alone and poor and I often think if I can get to my 38th birthday (2-1/12 years away) life will get easier. The road will be less broken and the darkness will not trap me as often.

    I cried the same tears of joy on November 4th and since have cried many tears of sorrow, because my family is blind to the beauty of hope and change. And sadly blind in regards to my illness.

    I’m fighting to find my way back to the offensive side…and I’m happy you’re there.

    Many days you have lingered around my cabin door. Oh Hard times, come again no more.

    you will conquer. you will survive.

  6. Merely Me says:

    No doubt in my mind…yes you will conquer and you will survive!

    Sometimes I think of the depression as a curse but…sometimes I feel grateful that I am capable of feeling the depths of emotion. As much as I can feel sorrow…I can also feel joy. I can feel this similarity in you too. Every post you write is…on fire!

    Music…yeah…I tend to crave it when I am in my deepest of moods. It heralds my cathartic release. Dylan…is timeless.

    Another great post. I need to catch up here…sorry I have been so negligent.

  7. says:

    Hi John,

    Finally, pulled myself up to read other blogs again and yours was inspirational to me today. Dylan a man with amazing words…you too…expressing your experience. Lots of loss, deep grief, too much to put a lid on it and a fighter. You will win.

    By the way, when you wrote, “But I soon shut it down, as real depressed men do.” Guess what…this really woman does too sometimes before even my eyes get a little wet…eventually, I either choke or it comes out…it might be months later, but it comes. I guess real depress women don’t cry either…at least not this one…for now as it is for you.

    I’m you allowed Mr. Dylan to touch you!!


  8. Stephany says:

    I think crying tears of relief that you are facing the road to recovery is normal. I’m only finding this out right now myself. That, after having such prolonged misery, the thought of life being better is often overwhelming, and it’s like walking out of a battle zone into safe areas and feeling totally exposed. There I believe the fear comes into play because, to really feel one’s feelings and live life for each moment in a real way, is frightening and often our safe dark pits are giving us false security.

    I hope you walk out onto the recovery road and don’t look back.

  9. John D says:

    Chunks – Thank you! That is so nice of you to include me in your list. Most of the other blogs are quite new to me, and I look forward to reading them!

    Melinda – I’m so glad this got through to you. I never know what the reactions will be. I think you’re right about the positive side – something has definitely shifted in me. At times, I slip back, but on the whole, I’m going to have to write more about recovery than misery from now on. How do I do that!!!

    Dano – You not only write beautifully, but you think beautifully! I’m coming to agree with the idea that we who go through these torments do have special experience and insight – certainly none of us will ever take a healthy mind for granted!

    I am, as usual, humbled by your praise – but I’m afraid I’m going to have to start censoring your comments to pull out the extravagant things you’re saying! šŸ™‚ Those are some major dudes you mention – let’s just leave them alone on their pedestals!

    And about the movie – if you’re not a Dylan fan you may not respond the way I do – but unless I’m forgetting you’ll be happy to know that it does not include more than a couple of song fragments by the man himself. You hear a whole lot of wonderful singers instead. So you can enjoy your regular breakfast!

  10. Oh John,

    I have been away too long and missed the amazing power of your words. Frank Lloyd Wright said that “form follows function” and Billy Shakespeare, “Truth is Beauty; Beauty, Truth”. Hemingway chopped at words like Giacometti reduced forms: To arrive at the actual answer they held within and show it to the world.

    You encompass all of these great men in so many ways, yet you are your own original voice crying out. You are fearless in your honesty, your emotions, your fears and your loves. You are an amazing person; gifted, insightful, caring, compassionate and generous.

    I cannot stand Bob Dylan. It may be a sound thing for me. I understand that he is a brilliant, gifted and important artist, but his voice drives me crazier than if I’d eaten all my Effexor for breakfast!

    However, having read your post, I was so moved, that I actually contemplated adding the film to my Netficks account. Then I realized a couple of things.

    You have made me feel just a bit of your experience. You have led me through your experience so well, that even as I responded to your words, thoughts and emotions, I wanted to be part of it more. I wanted to rent the movie, just to add to my mental picture of you, to help me see what you see, to let me view the film not just as me, but as us.

    Your words were so strong, that I felt in some small measure all of the feelings that you described. I have nothing to give you but my most sincere thanks.

    I received early notice of an award, which has yet to be announced. I had thought immediately of you, but one of the founders cautioned me to wait, as I may be passing it on to some one that they picked.

    So, if you don’t get it from me, you will get it from them. It’s a new award and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

    Also, I’m going through some meds changes, which gives me a few off and on hours of hypomania. So, I’m finally passing on the lovely gift of the Arte Y Pico Award. Thank you so much for it and your continued support.

    But most of all, thank you. You are a bright light and a beacon for those of us tossed by mental torments. It is right to question if you will survive, knowing the battle.

    But in a way, we are gifted. Our mental health has let us see worlds the scientists are still mapping, ghosts that others pay cranks to describe, visions that are only recorded in ancient and sacred texts, the actual depths of a real hell, far colder and darker than the one many are threatened with, sounds more glorious than this world could give and yet live.

    Many may suffer still, from the stigma of our worlds, but it gets better, like a drop of snow adding to the quiet whitening of the world. By speaking out, by joining, by fighting and staying strong, we leave the world a snowflake kinder to the next being.

  11. Melinda says:

    Wow, John–this post really blew me away. You have an amazing gift for pulling us into the emotional turmoil you are feeling.

    I really feel this is a victorious post–because you *are* on the offensive–battling your way through and that’s not an easy place for many people who suffer from depression. It is far easier to be hopeless in passivity.

    I heard plenty of fight in you in this post John–thank you so much for sharing it with all of us.



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  13. John D says:

    Etta – Thank you! You’re right about grieving – I used to be mystified by it, but all those losses you mention are plenty of reason to grieve. What’s different is the emotion coming to the surface and finding a way out. My own history is one of forcing back the expression of deep feeling. It’s a good sign for me to let it go. All the best to you in your fight against this thing.

  14. John D says:

    Thank you, Chunks – The admiration goes both ways!

  15. John D says:

    Jennifer – Thank you – praise from a fine writer always means a lot. I’m sure working on conquering – maybe not in so spectacular a way. But for the first time I’m thinking I’ll do a lot more than just survive. Thanks for the encouragement.

  16. John D says:

    Svasti – Thanks for that link – your friend’s post is a wonderful riff on all our identities. I find the film uneven and like the first half better than the second – but the basic idea is amazing. I’ll have to watch it again.

  17. etta says:

    Wow, John-
    Powerful stuff. Congratulations on taking the offensive. As you know, I recently did that as well. Good luck!

    I identify with the tears and grief. Don’t you think depression itself causes grieving? My tears lately, which stain my face without the benefit of a solemn Dylan tune, feel full of grief. Grief for the life that could have been. Grief for the life that was–the one stolen by this illness. Grief for lost abilities. Grief for lost hopes and dreams and goals. I’ve had lots of tears lately, and yes, I think they are full of grief.

    Thank you for the excellent post.

  18. Oh you most certainly will. You are such a strong soul and I have always admired you from afar.

    What a wonderful post.

  19. Jennifer says:

    John — Lots of powerful imagery in this post, from the tumultuousness of the times to the tamping down of your own emotions. I think the recognition of those emotions is a good indication of your ability to conquer and survive.


  20. Svasti says:

    Hey John… you should head over to this post for more on I’m Not There – written by another Dylan fan (and friend of mine):

    I recently watched it myself, but I think, for the full poignant effect, you kinda need to be a serious Dylan fan and/or have lived through those times… I loved it still, though…

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