Knife Not Knife

This post is about knives. It is also not about knives. If you have issues with Depression, probably better to not read further.


I have a pretty decent set of knives. From the Shun “Classic” series. My favorite is the 8-inch Chef’s knife. I think it’s very pretty. I like the weight of it. I like the Classic series, particularly, because of the D-shaped handle. They fit very well in my hand.

In choosing a new set of knives (or just getting a knife), it’s important to feel how it works. Balance. Heft. Well, basically just that. Any knife will be sharp when you first get it. Good knives will stay sharp longer, depending how you use them.

Shun is a Japanese knife. The blades of Japanese knives tend to be very thin. Sure, all knives are like that, but if you looked at a Shun next to a Wüsthof (a German knife), for example, you’d see the blade of the Wüsthof was a bit thicker. As such, in my reckoning, Japanese knives need to be babied a bit more.

They don’t stay sharp if you are cutting on a bamboo board (don’t use bamboo) or are breaking your way through a particularly stubborn chicken bone. But I don’t cook animals so it really isn’t an issue for me.

I sharpen the knives maaaaybe twice a year. When you sharpen a knife, you are taking away from the life of the knife, as you are removing steel.

Sharpening is different than honing. The picture above is a honing blade. You might have one of these if you bought a nice knife set. Its purpose is to keep sharp knives sharp. It can’t sharpen a dull knife. It also doesn’t remove steel from the blade. Other than microbits that cause the knife to “bump” along the honing blade. The whole point of using a honing blade is to remove that bumpy feeling. It’s hard to explain, but if you are curious, I’m sure there are plenty of videos online to show you what to do and why.

But this isn’t really about knives, per se. It’s about what can be done with them.

Not Knife.

Usually, when I sharpen or hone a knife, I think about how important it is to keep knives sharp. “It’s better to be cut by a sharp knife than a dull knife,” as the saying goes. It’s the “to be cut by” part that pulls my attention.

I understand what a nicely sharpened knife can do to my skin. Having many times over the past few decades let my attention wander, I’ve cut myself by accident while working in the kitchen. But sometimes I look at the blade of the knife and I understand what a nicely sharpened knife can do to my skin. And flesh.

Impulse control is a wonderful thing. Most impulses are best controlled as the human mind is a terrible place that particularly enjoys flights of fancy. And most of those flights end in death or pain if not controlled.

But, and I can’t stress this enough, people, for the record, I don’t want to cut myself and never have. I have such strong vehemence against it that I’d never go down that path. But my Depression has me thinking about Death a lot. A lot, a lot. Like, pretty much all the time.

I’ve had one point in my life, maybe 2007-ish, where I consciously thought my family would be better off without me. I remember the moment itself very clearly.

Lying in bed (where I’d been for a couple of days, unable to get up for more than small bites and peeing) hating myself, disgusted at my existence.

It is the moment of most regret in my life.

My daughter made a stuffed-animal for me. Sonny. A yellow bear with a button on his tummy. She made it to fix me. And I am tearing up as I type this because basically, non-verbally, I told her to fuck off. My brain didn’t want me to deserve happiness.

Sonny sits on my bed-side table now. A constant reminder of my failure as a father, as a human, but also a reminder of my wonderful, caring, kind daughter who, if she reads this, should know her action started me on the road back to sanity.

There’s a small, it’s-all-about-me voice in my head that has a particular mantra of “What’s the point?” It’s time to get up. “What’s the point?” Take a shower. “What’s the point.” Maybe think about exercising on that $3000 machine you bought that sits in the basement. “What’s the point?”

And I’m here to tell you, on my best days, I’m talkin’ living-in-a-musical-we’re-all-synchronized-dancing best, my answer to “What’s the point” is that there is no point. We’re going to die. Why does anything matter?

It is at this point in the writing of this post where I can feel my chest start to sink in, my shoulders hunch, and I want to stop typing. I’ve been mulling this post for over 9 months. I am sure it will make a handful of people mad at me. Maybe cost me professionally, because Depression. But I haven’t clicked Publish yet, so, let’s keep going and see.

Nothing matters. We came from exploding stars, we’ll return to them. People talk about being remembered, never forgetting. But, remember that cold Winter day back in the year 1021 when Reginald died? Me either. Beyond the fact that you wouldn’t be wearing the style of shoe you likely are wearing right now without Reginald. But no one knows or cares about the man himself.

Much like no one will care about me. Or you. Maybe they will for a few years. Or maybe a few hundred years. But, you’d be dead, so what does it matter? And if nothing matters, what’s the point.

Circle, circle, circle. I’m right, of course. But, so what?

Yes, so what, indeed. Why stay alive if there’s no point? Because of that vehemence that despises the very idea of Suicide (and to some extent looks down upon those who succumb to it). So why get up? Why shower? Why exercise?

No reason. No point, remember? I just wrote that.

Well, no reason … except … well, one. And only one. And it’s a reason that Depression really fucks with. Makes it difficult to see. Hard to think about. Difficult even to imagine.

The reason: Happiness.

With a caveat.

But I think the caveat is important, so let’s lead with that.

Caveat: At no one else’s expense.

This is probably why I abhor the concept of Suicide so much. Because it is selfish and comes at the expense of others.

The only purpose of existence is the Pursuit of Happiness. Enjoy the life you have. Do things that are enjoyable. Not just pleasurable and not to be confused with serving an addiction.

It should be a pursuit where every decision focused on sustainable happiness. A pursuit that should be, must be followed as far as you can, no matter what your happiness is. Up to the point it infringes on the pursuits of another.
But Depression … oh, that Depression.

Starting 2 months prior to the mass layoff at nGen in early November 2014, I’d been on a downward spiral that continued for over a year. It was slow and plodding and, while I knew it wouldn’t become dangerous, it was really quite annoying. The weight gain, the tiredness, the lack of attention to personal projects, the body soreness.

Not having a job for 5 months after nGen was hard. Having a nice job for the past 9 months has been helpful.

Those all-singing-all-dancing occasions have always been few and far-between for me. I don’t expect to have them on a regular basis. And yes, that’s likely the Depression doing most of the talking there. But I’d like for that voice to please for to be shutting the fuck up with all this “What is the point anyway, Matthew”-talk.

I know what to do. Intellectually. Logically. Consciously. I know what to do.

I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this. I don’t remember why I started writing this. Nine months ago. Something about lack of impulse control and knives. But that was just the framework to set things up, not the point.

The framework is to show that sometimes an object can be used for what it was built to do and sometimes it can be used for other purposes. Sometimes a thing is the thing and sometimes it isn’t.

The point is that there’s a fine line between being and not being for people with Depression. But, for the most part, for most people, that shouldn’t be interpreted as a fine line between life and death.

It should be interpreted more like a fine line between connected and not connected. For depressed people, it’s very easy to slip into not connected and very difficult to slip into connected.

My Depression is the reason why I feel not connected. It’s the reason why I haven’t followed up with you about that project we talked about. It’s the reason I haven’t followed up with you about that workshop. It’s the reason why I’m afraid to fly. It’s the reason why I don’t reach out to see how you are doing. It’s the reason I look angry to you, even though I’m not at all angry. It’s the reason why people ask why I don’t smile. It’s the reason I can’t think of what to do with my time that doesn’t involve a screen.

It’s the reason that I sometimes look at a knife and think.

But I am writing about it. Focusing light on it. I choose to take as a good sign.