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Real hope for your young (and old) Hemingway

Letter to the Editor

Maybe your son or grandson is like you: very tough. That’s good. You need toughness—you need guts—to get through this broken, fallen world. It ain’t no picnic. Ernest Hemingway, in A Farewell to Arms, described the downright mean cussedness of this ol’ world: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure that it will kill you, too, but there will be no special hurry.”

That is tough talk. Left alone, it is also depressing to the point of despair. We are living in a desperate time when creative, tough people need real hope.

Hemingway prided himself as a tough guy, an outdoorsman who could out-hunt, out-fish, out-box, and out-drink any man. This battle-scarred soldier would even call-out and embarrass supportive friend and fellow novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was competitive.

Tragically, the one competition he did not win was his battle against depression. In the absence of his protective last wife “Miss Mary,” Hemingway felt desperately lost: “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.”

Hemingway struggled with—and eventually lost his life to—chronic depression, a condition that, in 1960, Americans in general—and men in particular—did not discuss for fear of being ostracized by their community. One wonders what other marvelous writing Hemingway might have produced had he, years earlier, as a young man grieving the loss of his own father to suicide, sought—and found—reliable treatment for depression.

For sufferers of depression today, there are at least three reasons for hope. First, local/regional nonjudgmental counseling is available and affordable. Second, recently improved and accessible antidepressant medicine can buffer the severity of depression. Third, Christ—and His people—are walking with you through these temporary dark valleys.

Gary Altman



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