When Being Calm is a Revolutionary Act

Wise words by British novelist Matt Haig (@matthaig1) from his extraordinary book Reasons to Stay Alive – the true account of his struggle with and finally, triumph over the life-threatening illness of depression:

The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (2015, Canongate Books)

How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind.

To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.

Yet we have no other world to live in. And actually, when we look closely, the world of stuff and advertising is not really life. Life is the other stuff. Life is what is left when you take all that crap away, or at least ignore it for a while.


“How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing.” (Photo: Pixabay)


Life is the people who love you, the author continues – “No one will ever choose to stay alive for an iPhone. It’s the people we reach via the iPhone that matter.”

You can find more extracts from Matt Haig’s simple and beautiful memoir in this Guardian article from February 2015: “Men do cry: one man’s experience of depression.”


Image Credit:

Featured: Times Square by User “MK Feeney,” CC BY 2.0, Flickr



10 thoughts on “When Being Calm is a Revolutionary Act

  1. Hi Tulika,
    I’ve been in front of my computer for some time, experiencing a major bout of blank page syndrome and I’ve noticed your posts today so I thought I would at least process this.

    I hope 2017 continues to be as productive and wide-ranging in your posts as 2016 has been.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Tulika, thank you and I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit to Australia – I would be very surprised if you didn’t. From when I did Russian at uni, I remember 2 lines from Pushkin ‘Sunday, Sunday, I wait for you with impatience’ Those lines encapsulate for me the difference between the Russian spirit (and that of many other cultures) and the Australian – when Pushkin wrote of ‘Sunday’ he wrote of spirit and resurrection, the Australian thinks of Sunday as the day to be with family and friends, enjoying the weather and affluence, at the beach, having a drink etc. To me, that is mere hedonism. Do you think I’m being harsh?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s an interesting thought. I think the Aussie condition might be the combination of a certain local tendency and the general fashions of our age – which you will find on display almost everywhere.

        There are other places that may look “very spiritual” but are embarrassingly low on basic civic sense and courtesies. For all its flaws, Australia is gloriously high on the quality of life and individual freedoms – I think that’s supremely important (coming from the East).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I have had all that I have worked for taken from me while I was marked down and excluded at not one but 2 universities – UNSW and then the University of Sydney. I have also had 2 botched operations (the 2nd supposedly to correct the result of the 1st) which I believe were deliberately botched because the surgeons thought I was trying to tell them their business. Those experiences have severely affected me (I am not processing this for any sympathy but to make the following point). The 2 streams of experience are directly connected via the fact that Australian culture, beneath what you processed and what the majority of Australians lay claim to is deeply authoritarian and conformist.
        Yes, Australians are ‘free’ to enjoy their great good fortune of material wealth (which, as you know, they guard with absolute ruthlessness – I am referring to the refugees escaping from the devastation caused by Australians serving the interests of US capital), but particularly to know their place as they do so. The marks of the convict origins are everywhere for those who dare to look.
        Another key aspect of the convict origins is in Australian ‘inferiority’ – it has not gone as they claim. They still lack the self-regard to declare themselves a republic when even the queen would wish them the best if they did so while their relations with the Americans is an utter disgrace. To be dominated because one is unable to throw that domination off is one thing but to take pride in being dominated is as low as a person could go (while I could give you countless examples, one from last night – the New Year’s fireworks display in Sydney. Part of that display were tributes to David Bowie (English) and Prince (American)… I only watched part of the display but I would be interested to know if any part of it was a tribute to the countless thousands of Australian indigenous people poisoned, shot and enslaved by the white invaders.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Your experiences sound truly devastating.

        “The marks of the convict origins are everywhere for those who dare to look.” & “…countless thousands of Australian indigenous people poisoned, shot and enslaved by the white invaders.” – I have indeed given thought to these two points.

        Some time back I came across a picture of Truganini, the last Tasmanian:
        Horror and pain are stark on her face.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. And I meant to add, Tulika, that in order to make Australia into a true island paradise of freedom and quality of life, the systematic genocide of Australia’s indigenous continues, only now by parliament and bureaucracy, no longer by shooting and baiting ‘parties’.

        Liked by 1 person

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