These are some trying times. Things are difficult for me personally, and they are also hard and stressful for a lot of people. It seems like things have turned upside down and inside out. Soren Kierkegaard has a quote that captures this feeling perfectly. He writes,
What if everything in the word were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?
What if indeed! We have all experienced this kind of pain. More importantly, we perform it every day. So, to expand on Kierkegaard, what if the misunderstanding was really just an inability to see, hear, or understand?
I’ve been thinking about the word melancholy and its poetic nature. Susan Sontag once wrote that “Depression is melancholy minus its charm.” I wonder what it is about the word, melancholy, that makes it charming. Certainly, sadness is probably the furthest from charming one can be.
Perhaps children maintain charm in the face of sadness. Maybe we think that way because we don’t take the sadness of children seriously, much to the detriment of the children.
Poets and philosophers speak of melancholia as if it is a bridge beyond sadness or as Eli Cioran notes, it is “an appetite no misery satisfies.”
Fundamentally, to be sad and to be melancholy are the same. However, one of those words feels more despairing. This is the wonderful thing about words: they can demonstrate degrees of a feeling just by the feelings generated by the word.
But all is not lost. Herman Hesse has this to say about melancholy:
I began to understand that suffering and disappointment and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.
Well, if I am going to be transfigured, I wonder what I will become?
In any case, are there any good poems out there that can assuage the intensity of your melancholy feelings? Leave the titles in the comments below.