How to Be Melancholy


I can't help but be drawn to the sombre things in life.
I love a minor chord and I can hardly stop listening to this sweepingly mournful Puccini playlist.
The last three books I've read were A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees (a mediaeval Japanese monk contemplates fleeting moments of life), An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination (a writer's memoir about her still-born child) and The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion's account of her husband's sudden death and daughter's illness).
As J.K Rowling recently said, "I'm all about the death."
Not that that's what being melancholic is all about. It's almost the opposite - recognising and appreciating life's transience, knowing that we are just atoms crashing around, absorbed by the mysteriousness of it all...
I think I might always have been a bit melancholic - I had an affinity with Eeyore and I remember my favourite episode of the Power Rangers being the one where they were actually defeated - their Zords clawing at the air as they sank into flames. Weird.
In ye olden days I might have been prescribed some leeches, a calefacient or a little light blood-draining to rid me of black bile.
But melancholy is not necessarily something to be cured, to be avoided. The Book of Life tells us to even seek it out from time to time - that it is an important mental state that helps our personal development.
Artists especially have long known this, creating melancholy-inducing paintings using skulls, rotting fruit, wilting flowers and sand falling through an hourglass as memento mori.
In modern life, Twitter, with the news of a famous person's death, is full of their aphorisms and quotes, retweeted to stir up poignant food for thought.
And Oliver Sacks's New York Times article last month (in which he writes of having terminal cancer) became the site's most shared piece ever.
Food itself can greatly help us revel in (or when the time comes, get over) the mood of melancholy. Sophie Dahl suggests comforting bubble and squeak, chicken soup and, of course, chocolate.
Tea is obviously essential (surely the perfect calefacient) - soothing as you stare out a rain-spattered window...
All a bit melodramatic, I know - but a great excuse to stay in bed and wallow.

"If life did not fade and vanish like the dews of Adashino's graves 
or the drifting smoke from Toribe's burning grounds, but 
lingered on forever, how little the world would move us. 
It is the ephemeral nature of things that makes them wonderful."
Yoshida KenkĊ, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees



Comments

Popular Posts