I always feel warmly toward Mark Fisher. I keep coming back to things he wrote in Ghosts of My Life: Writings On Depression, Hauntology, and Lost Futures. Sadly, Fisher did not always feel so warmly toward himself. Or perhaps it wasn’t himself so much as what was going on inside. He discusses depression frequently in his writings. And he often connects his own depression with a kind of anonymous depression, a depression that exists in the world itself. Or so he thought. What I’m saying is that he didn’t think depression was ultimately an individual problem. He thought it was a social problem. He thought there was something wrong with the world.
He hanged himself in 2017.
There’s a pretty good piece written by Hua Hsu in The New Yorker about why reading Fisher can be so moving and so personal. Here are a few sentences from the piece that do a good job of summing up Fisher’s overall mood and approach:
But if there was a single theme around which [Fisher]’s eclectic energies organized, it was the future. Specifically: What happened to it? Fisher feared that we were losing our ability to conceptualize a tomorrow that was radically different from our present.
… Fisher saw signs of exhausted resignation in everything from the faces of his students to grim Hollywood movies set in the near-future (“Children of Men,” “Wall-E”) to “Supernanny,” a British reality show about parents unable to rein in their misbehaving kids. Fisher was interested not only in the political causes and cultural expressions of this exhaustion but in its emotional dimensions, too: the feelings of sadness or despondency that seem increasingly common across the political spectrum.
Fisher connected his own struggles with depression to a sense that the world as a whole is stuck in an infinite loop and that any idea that something new could ever happen is in the process of being abolished, slowly. This is indeed a massively depressing thought, in my opinion. It is more depressing for the fact that, again in my opinion, there is truth to it.
The scene switches. We’re in a cozy room on the west side of Detroit a few weeks ago. A group of people, myself, the indefatigable Shuffy, and three young persons in their mid-twenties are engaged in a reading group. We are reading, line by line, Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle.
In Chapter One of the book, one finds the lines, “If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness.”
What Teresa is saying here is actually quite simple. She is saying that we all have God, that we all carry God around. Sure, we can all say. Sure. God is inside us all in some way or other. The thing is, it is pretty clear that Teresa really means this. Really and truly means it. The fact that we are an image of God means that deep down, in the essential part of the soul that is the soul on its own terms, that diamond, as she calls it, that paradise, as she also calls it, that is God. We are God, when you get right down to it. Because there is God, right there, at the center of the mansion, the crystal palace or castle or whatever it is that is, in fact, the central point of our being and also the point at which the being that is ours collapses into the being that is utterly absolute. Absolute, mysterious, surprising, awesome, beautiful.
Absolute. Yes. But not far away at all. Right here. Teresa continues, “Now let us return to our beautiful and charming castle and discover how to enter it. This appears incongruous: if this castle is the soul, clearly no one can have to enter it, for it is the person himself: one might as well tell someone to go into a room he is already in! There are, however, very different ways of being in this castle;… Certain books on prayer that you have read advise the soul to enter into itself, and this is what I mean.”
In a way, the easiest thing in the world is to enter into the castle and therefore to be God or to be one with God, if you prefer. You don’t have to do anything. You are the door. You are already inside. And yet, in a sense, you aren’t. Because you think you’re outside and you don’t know where the door is. But it’s right there. You are it. You just have to enter yourself, even though it sort of makes no sense to say that. But it also does make sense, because you can do it. And when you do, everything changes, even though everything has also stayed exactly the same.
Now, you might ask, what does any of this have to do with Mark Fisher? Once, writing about the movie Inception, Fisher noted the strange sadness of the film. “It’s a sadness,” Fisher wrote, “that arises from the impasses of a culture in which business has closed down any possibility of an outside.… You yearn for foreign places, but everywhere you go looks like local colour for the film set of a commercial; you want to be lost in Escheresque mazes, but you end up in an interminable car chase.” It is the word “outside” and the “Escheresque mazes” that really get me. “They do exist,” I want to reach back into the past and tell Mark, gently. The radical newness and the mazes exist. But you have to go the other direction. The castle is within.
Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly Review and is a contributor at The New Yorker. He won the Whiting Award for non-fiction in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant. A book of Morgan’s selected essays can be found here. His books from Slant are The Drunken Silenus. and (just published) The Fate of The Animals He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.