Friday, June 10, 2016

Beauty and melancholy

Beauty and melancholy go together. Beauty is ultimately a tease. It intrigues. It seduces. It creates yearning and strange passions. It sometimes inspires awe and sometimes it elicits explosive joy. 
Melancholy is founded in loss. It exists on the fringes of almost all pleasure and pain. Whatever sinks into us pools in a deep place with our melancholy. And the things we love and the things that move us drop into our melancholy pools like a rock that hits the bottom of the well. Kerplunk! A splash. An echo. A sound that in itself creates a feeling of melancholy.

Loss pervades everything after a time and beauty reminds us of our loss. This assault on our memory - this beauty assault - is the essence of melancholy. We are filled with mourning and a sense of defeat or loss that is painful but strangely sweet. Mourning keeps the dead, loved person, thought, feeling or thing alive. And this life it lives inside us is beautiful even when it hurts (or maybe it hurts because it is beautiful or is beautiful because it hurts). The genesis of the emotion troubles me not. 

The point is that beauty seems to echo something deeper even than itself. It seems to call up some lost magic in the world and it brings us into contact with unsaid, unthought, unreal deep things. Living in those depths is beautiful. Listening to echos is beautiful. Watching and listening to a thunderstorm on the porch of my house over 40 years ago comes back as a melancholy memory every time the rain pours now. And I feel myself back in that time, smelling the rain and letting it barely splash me and I see all the things I've had and lost and I love them again and miss them again and mourn them again. And ultimately, I feel grateful for every one of these lost pleasures and sadnesses and the ongoing mourning brings me a new and different kind of pleasure at each successive age.