June 28, 2007


I have many weird favorite things. Where some don't bother to pick favorites, I do. And where everyone picks favorites, I pick weird ones.

My favorite stylistic device is the hendiadys. My favorite pen is from Kohs Machine Shop Inc in Marshfield, WI (I own about 300 pens). My favorite letter is P. My favorite cloud is snoopy-shaped. My favorite temperature is 27° Celsius. My favorite Greek letter is f. My favorite TV character is Oz (NOT the wizard). My favorite animal is the squirrel.

My favorite feeling is melancholy.

I think that the indefinable space between happy and sad is the most moving and compelling place for an artist to be. If there's anything I consistently strive for, it's a melancholy limbo."

- Shawn Colvin

When I say melancholy I don't mean depression or sadness. I mean melancholy. A pensive mood. A tear in one eye and a smile on the lips.

"Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness."

- Italo Calvino

That kind of melancholy. There is too much in this world, in us people, to not be melancholic, I believe. At least every now and then. To get lost within the slightly bitter taste of life, the beautiful irony of it all. To think about love lost, friendship not found, impending death and children in the sunshine. Your heart feels heavier in your chest, you notice its presence for a change, your thoughts are shrouded in mist, everything looks beautiful but gloomy, alive but meant to fade. When I am melancholic I feel connected to something greater than myself. And since I don't believe in God, I name it the soul of the world, the wisdom of the times. Not that I know anything in these moments others don't know, I just feel like I could know something if I tried hard enough.

Great men are always of a nature originally melancholy."

- Aristotle

When I am melancholic, I can sense many have been melancholic before and will be after I am gone. Which makes it all the more touching. When you are melancholic you don't think about your petty little self, you look out at the world and see the depths in puddles, hidden traits, dark secrets and the greenest greens in all the red. You write the best poetry, the most moving songs, touching lines of prose.

"Melancholy is a fearful gift. What is it but the telescope of truth!"

- Lord Byron

Melancholy makes you sink deeper into your soul and settle into your body. You arrive within yourself while your thoughts travel with the couple on bikes passing by. It's a warm blanket, rain proof and harder to shed the longer you wear it. It calms you down, it gives you time and patience. You no longer have an elsewhere to be. You can meditate over your coffee forever, you can rock the baby's cradle for hours. Your thoughts escape you, travel far and wide and when you finally come back, you are more relaxed than ever.

"There is no such thing as happiness, only lesser shades of melancholy."

- Victor Hugo

Melancholy hides everywhere. It's the feeling you get when you listen to Epicure's "Main Street". It's the feeling you get when someone you love accomplishes something and you know you haven't accomplished anything lately. It's the feeling of wanting to be more than you are but seeing no way to get there soon. At the end of the day melancholy makes you smile and think you are silly for loving deep thoughts more than laughter. What is a day in the sun worth measured against the times of time? Are the thoughts you put down on paper when you are melancholic more resistant than the fading sounds of voices in the wind whispering timely jokes in timely fashion?

"Melancholy advanceth men's conceits more than shy humor whatever."

- Robert Burton

Melancholy makes you fancy yourself to be an artist, a dark soul wandering past people unnoticed and yet more profound than them. It makes you feel you are on the outside looking in and you see something others miss. Your eyes search the room for someone else who sees it too and all too many times arrive at yourself again. Everyone melancholic thinks they are alone. Which is just as well, the perception of loneliness is a vital part of melancholy, the only true kind.

"If you are melancholy for the first time, you will find, upon a little inquiry, that others have been melancholy many times, and yet are cheerful now."

- James Henry Leigh Hunt

You see the world as it should be, may be and will be, when you are melancholic. Behind the masks and masquerades there are insights to be gained and you want them all. You don't believe in the headlines, the bleached hair and the sparkling teeth. And the two girls at the table next to you talking about shoes disgust you more than the bloodshed in a distant country. At least the bloodshed is real, what are they? Figurines, impressionable and without questioning, raised in a world out of touch with its own core. At the speed the world is turning, these two will definitely be amongst those who get thrown off by the centrifugal force over time.

"Melancholy sees the worst of things,--things as they may be, and not as they are. It looks upon a beautiful face, and sees but a grinning skull."

- Christian Nestell Bovee

Melancholy makes you sigh more than usual and leaves you unable to make any kind of facial expression. People tend to worry about me when I am melancholic. They are convinced they need to cheer me up, but there is no cheering up from melancholy. You have to choose to leave it behind out of your own will. And when you are connected to something real through melancholy, you don't want to give it away anymore.

"Go--you may call it madness, folly,
You shall not chase my gloom away.
There's such a charm in melancholy,
I would not, if I could, be gay!"

- Samuel Rogers

Everything seems to have a purpose and make sense when you look at it with melancholic eyes. This sense may not be dainty and it may be horrifying indeed, but at least it is a sense. The crying child you know will grow up to be a unique person and the scraped knee won't make a difference. The law student will, after a long coffee break, find his way back to his books and fail his exam anyway. The rain draining the woman without an umbrella will enable her boyfriend to take sweet care of her when she gets home drenched and shivering. The homeless man on the corner will go unnoticed for the rest of his life, because of a few bad choices he made long ago. The murderer will walk free because he had the money to afford the good lawyer. Melancholy sees order in things that make no sense. It sees that it needs to be this way. The world cannot be merry and happy, it needs the dark to have the light. It is almost a duty to be melancholic to us melancholic. We know we keep the balance alive. If we gave up on our sweet dark milk, the world would light up and pretty soon burn out. So we mock you with our cynicism and our gloomy words on paper and probing questions so uncomfortable to think about.

"Aristotle said melancholy men of all others are most witty."

- Robert Burton

You have to excuse us. We don't mean to be condescending. Melancholy among everything else shrouds your view to other things and people. It has to in order to render the results we all desire. No melancholy is worth a damn if it thinks itself anything less than extraordinary. It's in the nature of things. No rock star can perform properly if he doesn't think he is the greatest man alive when he is on stage. A melancholy mind works the same way. And who would want to miss the insights of Eliot, Poe, Rilke or Oberst for the banal fact of them realizing they are not any different than the rest? Because in the end they are. Different.

"It's not something I would recommend, but it is one way to live."

- Conor Oberst

Melancholy gives the melancholic purpose. It defines our selves and identity is something not shed lightly. Nothing is done lightly in a melancholy state of mind. Not even the choice of your coffee. You are careful not to break your own mood. You avoid the upbeat CDs in your case, you turn off comedy shows on TV, you drown out the crowds. In the deepest stages of melancholy you find yourself still. Nothing within you moves except your thoughts and life passes you by in fast motion. You close your eyes, breathe in and grasp at something evasive for two seconds. You take your pen to write it down and it is gone. What you put on the page is a mere shadow of what you knew in those two seconds. But it gnaws at you forever and leaves you wanting to know what it was, digging into your soul, flipping through pages of profound books, listening to all the songs to find something familiar, to catch the scent again, to taste the taste of truth, melting on your tongue, exploding in your cells and shaking your muscles. It stays lost.

"Melancholy spreads itself betwixt heaven and earth, like envy between man and man, and is an everlasting mist."
- Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron)

My favorite feeling is melancholy.

Once it grabs a hold of you, once you experience it, you don't want it to leave your life. Sometimes it goes to sleep within you and is tired of making you twist and turn. Then you delve into ordinary life and become one of the laughing people. Until one day melancholy comes out of hibernation, demands to be fed and takes a close look at what you have been doing while it was sleeping. And it puts the knowing smile back on your face. Lets you know what you have done was gain experience, more to contemplate, more to examine, more to savor. Melancholy makes the most of every moment, because it can freeze it and look at it for all eternity. One perfect moment is enough to feed your melancholy for all your life. You can write endless stories about that one moment, you can relive it, you can taste it, smell it, feel it, love it. To be melancholic is to know things fade and make them stick around only in your mind. To be melancholic is to beat time. To be melancholic is to be.

"Nothing is so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy."

- Samuel Fletcher

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