Ever felt like this right now is the best time in your life? Ever wished that time itself would just freeze this very instant? I guess what I’m asking is, in a nutshell, have you ever looked longingly at the lucky inhabitants of a snow globe?
Imagine having an eternity to fully savour the beauty of a perfect moment before it inevitably passes. Since that ability is the dominion of fictional gods, since change will come, have you ever resigned to allowing the chips to fall where they may? Think about it: you could engineer an outcome to your favour, but how long will it last? Moments, days, weeks, a lifetime? A flash compared to the cosmic timescales of the universe. The only logical conclusion is happiness is a temporary reprieve, a selfish delusion. That sounds sad. And you wonder. Is it even possible to be happy and sad at the same time? A bit happy, and a bit sad with some unnatural balance. Happy just knowing you recognize and appreciate the presence of something nice. And sad, because you know it won’t last nearly long enough. How much is “enough” anyway? This flawed happi-sadness is a gem in itself and I call it melancholy.
Melancholy. Such a beautiful word. You don’t even need to strain yourself to say it. Mellon-kuh-lly. Just rolls off the tongue mellifluously.
mel·an·chol·y [mel- uhn- kol- ee]:
a gloomy state of mind, esp. when habitual or prolonged; depression
sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness
To be melancholic is not depressing as they would have you believe. It’s a nice feeling; gentler than disappointment, definitely more cathartic. It’s easier to recover from than absolute joy. Like a buffer region. And all the while, you get to maintain your composure. What’s not to like?
To be melancholic is to like talking but prefer to be alone. To be melancholic is to be wise but not practical. It’s like a small cosy town in the middle of a never- ending wilderness. The beauty of wilting flowers is melancholic. The howl of wolves on full moon nights is melancholic. In retrospect, taking time out to appreciate the little things in life, is very melancholic.
It’s like… living in a snow globe. Everything is perfect inside and you really have nothing to complain about. Sure, there’s the temptation to explore the imperfect but unpredictable outside world. But deep down, you know what you have is good fortune in its own right. That’s the essence of melancholy, to me. Identifying an abstract thrill for what it is, recognizing the transient nature of its existence, and justly rating its (in)significance. Melancholy is everyday realism, but it comes with the salve of amusement.
I’ve always felt a predisposition to melancholy. It’s comforting if only because it isn’t extreme. To stay melancholic is preferable to alternating between the highs of jubilation and the depths of utter depression. Being melancholic, you take both ends of the emotional spectrum in stride, recognising the transience of both. Distancing yourself from yourself, watching as an aloof spectator. Abstaining from indulgence, involvement and abstinence itself. To extend the concept of personal space beyond the physical realm, all the way to an intangible emotional one. Melancholy is effectively a passive effort to not have your personal space invaded by unbridled positivity or unchecked negativity.
Personal space is important, you know? To me it is. I think of it this way: an alternative take on pain. Seemingly impermeable objects can be penetrated by cosmic rays. But in the context of everyday life, you don’t even feel any sensation of being tunneled through. It’s the pain threshold. We’re constantly in pain, but only alerted to it after a certain arbitrary limit.
A breeze against your skin, that’s pain. A kitten snuggling on your lap, that’s pain. Sun- tanning is an exercise in pain – the same pain from sunburns – just lesser in magnitude. To the extent that emotions are responses to physical stimuli, happiness and sadness and everything in between are just different cocktails from the same bartender – pain. Pain has a negative connotation but if the pain threshold proves anything, it’s that pain can be good and bad.
Melancholy is the acknowledgement and acceptance of pain (as in its extended definition) as the origin of transient emotions, so you don’t get overwhelmed by them.
So that’s one advantage that melancholic people have over fellow humans. The stoic realisation that, no matter what, for better or worse, emotional variance is a biological imbalance compounded by an erratic state of mind. This mindset, I believe, makes you more receptive to other ideas. You can even find comfort in something traditionally morbid, like death. But no, being melancholic is not the same as being goth. To us, death isn’t the ultimate goal either. It’s just par for the course; yet another melancholic anticlimactic event. The world keeps turning; lives go on.
If that sounds fatalistic, I assure you it doesn’t have to be. Melancholy is surprisingly adaptable to any worldview; all it demands is a meta-conscious aloofness. It doesn’t require you to give up hope, but it helps if you can be okay with things not going your way. Melancholics are surprisingly not defeatist. In fact, we fight for what we think is right, even if we never quite forget the nagging possibility that it may not even make a difference. We fight the good fight anyway. Tragic efforts are prime fodder for melancholy after all.
Is that a good thing? I can’t say.
It’s nothing to be happy about. But I won’t complain either; I shouldn’t!
It’s fine really. It’s not perfect. It’s… melancholic.