Less is More: Garfield Without Garfield

If you have yet to discover Garfield Minus Garfield, get thee hence.

“Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.”

Removing the comical cat from the strip reveals an underlying desperation that, if you think about it, has always been there.  Whether Jon is talking to his cat or to himself, he is still having a one-sided conversation.

If you consider other comic strips, though, it becomes clear that this isn’t at all rare.  A surprising number of them are about deeply unhappy characters fighting to keep themselves afloat.  Peanuts springs immediately to mind: a depressed Charlie Brown, an obsessed Lucy, an insecure Schroeder, a hygiene-challenged Pig Pen, a Snoopy that escapes into a fantasy world.  We might turn the same lens toward Cathy and her struggle with age and singlehood, or The Far Side with a world where even science is steeped with absurdity and unpredictability.

Why is this so common?  Maybe it has to do with that old canard, “It’s funny because it’s true.”  Surely we aren’t Jon Arbuckle, are we?  Look at that potato shaped head, the huge bug eyes.  He can’t be us, yet paradoxically that allows him to be exactly like us, because otherwise it would be too close for comfort.  We laugh because it’s ridiculous, and the ridiculousness frees us laugh because it’s true.

Take away the cat silently cracking wise, and we’re just left with Jon, who is closer to our truth.  Go check out Garfield Minus Garfield.  You will laugh, you will cry, you will recognize yourself.

Depression Doesn’t Discriminate. Depression Lies. It’s Okay to Get Help.

This is about Robin Williams, like thousands, millions of other blog posts and Facebook posts and tweets and god knows what else out there.  Like just about everyone, I am shocked.  Like just about everyone, I am very sad.  Like just about everyone, I feel this was a personal loss, that his talent and his spirit touched my life on a deeper level than any other celebrity I can name.  And that in his struggle with depression, with despair, with those constant feelings of being not-enough, I see myself.

It’s all been said before, and with more grace than I am capable of.  But there are three things that I will say, things that must be repeated, by as many people and to as many people as possible.

Depression does not discriminate.

Depression strikes men and women, the young and the old, the famous and the obscure, the rich and the poor.  

Depression lies.

It gets into your head, and it tells you that nothing is ever good enough, that no one loves you, that the future only holds more pain, and that you might as well give up.  These are all lies.

It’s okay to get help.

Chances are, you know someone who struggles with depression.  It might even be you. There is absolutely no shame in getting help.  Talk to a friend.  A family member.  Your doctor.  See a therapist.  If it’s right for you, take medication.  You do not have to suffer in silence.  People will listen.  People will help.

If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please call the number above.  And please pass that number along.  Post it on your Facebook page, on your twitter, your Pinterest, your Instagram.  Suicide is contagious.  Suicide rates spike after a well-publicized suicide, and this is the most publicized suicide I’ve ever seen.  Please help make sure that people who are struggling with this know that help is at hand.  Give them the number, and be there for them.

And if anyone needs someone to turn to, you can contact me.  I will listen.