In Praise of Melancholy

Melancholy is the only sustainable mood,rests of the moods can be easily traded. One becomes melancholic not because happiness is an attainable; rather it is to do with the triviality of happiness. He is melancholic in his attempt to outgrow the pettiness of happiness. Melancholy is a stage after happiness. It can also be called happiness in reverse mode. Our happiness can belong to somebody else but our sorrows are preciously ours. A minimum unconsciousness required to remain inside life and be content. But the melancholic chooses to be conscious. Melancholics are beautiful people. Their effort to smile becomes an enchanting smile. He refuses to exist in other’s minds.His attempt to exist in his own mind makes him aloof and a harbinger of soliloquies. He is borne about with him a clouded brow of reflections.He searches for clarity in obscurity. There are too many sunsets in him. When darkness falls, his eyes are wet with sorrow and shadow. He hears the intimations of the night and his heart stands between delight and sorrow and trembles like a man in love. Melancholic is a ‘Hamlet’. Like Hamlet he knows that we have not only “outward pageants and the signs of grief” but “we have that which passes show”. Sometimes he gives himself to an act “that has no relish of salvation in it.” His heart is like a pendulum which oscillates between two those realities that are allowed to man: “to be or not to be”. Others move easily from something to nothing. But things are not easy for him, because he thinks pausing his steps, feeling his inner movements. He is belatedly and sadness has taken refuge in him. He practices to miss out. Melancholic’s are born under the sign of Saturn. Walter Benjamin with his unblinded and profound sense of sadness writes “I came into the world under the sign of Saturn- the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of the detours and delays.” He knew that all our deepest meditations on life have the marks of pathos, taste of death and refrains of solitude: “Solitude appeared to me as the only fit state of man”. But to feel the real solitude he had to leave his room and go to a bemusing city. “But to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires practice…. I learned this art late in my life: it fulfilled the dreams whose first traces where the Labyrinth on the blotters of exercise book.” Benjamin was well versed in the art of straying. His map was full of lost ways. The diagrams of life led him to the rightness of wrong paths. This is the merit of being a melancholic, he knows “the purity and beauty of a failure” Melancholy pushes the frontiers. When he looks at the star, it switches into flames. Melancholy does not permit you to live but to witness: “one feels as the one were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom of the deep dark well, utterly helpless” writes Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh committed suicide when reality failed him, but his ‘starry night’ and ‘Peasant’s shoes’ lives eternally outwitting reality. Sometimes reality is too small a thing to satiate hugeness of our desire. I imagine God to be a sad and melancholic person, someone who knows the uselessness of happiness. He goes to everyone collecting their tears in his begging bowl. Melancholy is route to this God and is bliss, “Felt, bliss in melancholy and sadness” Writes Kierkegaard. A philosopher is such a man who has looked into an abyss and abyss has gazed him back. His depth doesn’t contain happiness but something bigger than that, the agony and anguish of being man: a contradiction, paradox, everything still nothing. Hegel writes what a philosopher should try to be “Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.”


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