"How do you enjoy life?", the note read. A seemingly strange question, especially as it came from someone who was no longer experiencing it. Robert Herman, a photographer from New York, apparently wrote the sad question before leaping to his death from his 16th floor apartment.
Herman had published a couple of photography books and was seemingly well liked. He had been a street photographer since the late 70's and the people of New York was his subject matter.
After graduating from film school, Robert became a still photographer for independent feature films. Shooting on location he would use the long periods in between shots to capture the locations he found himself in. Using photography as a way to be creative everyday.
I did not know Robert myself. I came across reports of his death while browsing the news. What struck me, was that he would ask such a question. After spending decades capturing people on the street and documenting their stories, he basically came to the conclusion that it was all a bit pointless.
I guess life for him became unbearable and he decided, for what ever reason to end it. It was during in the middle of New Yorks Covid-19 pandemic shut down and perhaps the social isolation he was experiencing contributed to him feeling alone. In truth, I don't know what was going through his mind. I am certainly no mental health expert, but if I had known him and I was in his apartment on that fateful day, I would like to think I would have answered his question, how do you enjoy life?, by saying, how do you not?
What isn't there to like. Life is amazing, it is so utterly, unbelievably fantastic. Even the shit bit are stunningly awesome. To get to experience all the things we get to do is nothing short of a miracle. OK, so let's get one thing clear. I do not believe in God. I won't get into the debate about that here, but a miracle is the closest word I can find to describe just how wonderful life is. Not just my life, but everybody's life. It is all just bloody brilliant.
Why am I so positive about my life and everybody I know life? I'm glad you asked. Just think about it for a second. What alternative to life is there? It is not death. Death is just a process you go through at the end of life. The alternative to life is nothing. It is no existence. It is not bad, it is not good. It is just zero.
There are now billions of people in this world. Most of whom struggle with everyday life. Just getting enough to eat can consume their entire day. That you are even reading this, suggests that you are doing, at least financially, much better than most of the other people in the world. In short, you have got it good.
So why do so many people feel so shit about life? As I have already said, I am no expert, but that is not going to stop me from offering my thoughts. I realise the reasons behind depression are many and varied but in my, not so professional opinion, it comes down to a lack of connection and a feeling that we don't matter. By extension, if we don't matter, what is the point?
Maybe you live in a huge city, like London, New York or Sydney. What has always struck me about big cities is how lonely you can feel in them. You can be surrounded by thousands of people and feel like you are alone. Why is that? I believe it is because, although there are a lot of people, they are not connected to each other. The sheer numbers of people only serves to highlight how isolated you feel.
As creatives we strive for connection, perhaps more than most. We produce work for others to see and react too. We want our work to have impact. To matter. When our work misses the mark and doesn't have the impact that we had hoped for, it hurts. We compare ourselves to other creatives. We get imposter syndrome. We become our own worst critics. If that describes you, then I am here to tell you that needs to stop.
You are more than your work. Of course, your work is an important element of who you are, but it is not you. You are many things. You are not just a photographer, a painter an artist. You are a person with all that encompasses.
I hope that when you look out at the world you see what I see. An amazing place that is yours to explore. When the world starts to look bleak and dark, then you need to take your metaphorical sunglasses off. The world has not changed, just the way you see it has. It is as beautiful as it ever was. Life can throw rocks at you, but if you learn to see life in a beautiful light, then the shadow of depression will never fall upon your face.
If you are standing on a ledge on top of a very tall building as you are reading this then, I don't think my advice is going to cut it. You might need the help of an actual professional, who knows what they are talking about. In addition, they have access to some seriously good quality drugs :-). In the words of Monty Python: some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble, give a whistle and this'll help things turn out for the best and always look on the bright side of life.
Keep smiling and live life brightly.