Tuesday, January 6, 2009


My friend Matt was feeling particularly down one day, about 3 years ago, and was in the middle of a nasty depressive streak (he hadn't smiled in a month or two). He had arrived at the conclusion that life is meaningless, and that it really gave him no reason to continue on (he would anyways, of course, because it's probably less bad than the alternative, but even so, there was a definite existential crisis).

And so there were a bunch of people on my couch crowded around him, trying to explain to him that there is purpose, and life is worth living, and urging him to try all sorts of "Look on the bright side!" perspective adjustments so as to not be such a Sad Sam (or, in this case, a Melancholy Matt).

And he was having none of it. The pleas were ineffectual, and he was as down as ever.

I'd been sitting quietly at my desk, reading or doing some work, or likely browsing on the internet or trying to beat my sister's time record for Solitaire, when I turned around and said "Matt, you know what I do when I'm feeling sad?"

He shook his head.

"I think to myself, 'There are a lot of owls in the forest. That means that things are pretty okay.' I think these things when I'm sad. It helps me, even, to imagine a huge majestic redwood forest, or something in Washington. Maybe an expanse of pine trees and maple trees in Minnesota. The type of forest depends on the day, of course, and how sad I am. But all the trees have owls in them; that's the important part."

"Go on...."

"And then I think about how, due to development by humans, and logging, and relaxed environmental protection standards, people are cutting down the forests. They're cutting them down, and the owls have nowhere to go."

And Matt laughed and laughed, for the first time in a few months.

The other people who were in the room with us were, of course, quite peeved at me for the next few hours, and that week I received a lot of whispered "How dare you!?"s. But it was worth it.

The point is, even though there aren't any forests around, I'm thinking about owls right now.