Monday, 24 December 2007

The Melancholy

Happiness is an overrated emotion. Advertisements in magazines and on billboards and television screens tell us that our lives are incomplete unless we pay out for their merchandise, that the ownership of shiny consumer goods and cosmetic products can rescue us from the futile existences that we are told we lead. These goods alone, in other words, can bring us happiness, and this demonstrates why we should at least be sceptical of that particular condition. It is empty. At its worst it is anti-productive and anti-intellectual. What’s the point of doing anything if you’re happy as you are? And contemplation is to be avoided at all costs if one is happy. Thinking for too long about anything is a sure-fire route to doubt and dread and fear and loathing.

Well, that’s a cheery Christmas Eve opening paragraph, isn’t it? I don’t really have a problem with happiness, though. I wish bucketfuls of it to everyone I know and also to everyone I don’t know. It’s nice thing to feel. What I really want to do here is write in praise of sadness.

Many people won’t understand my extolling sadness and may even find the idea quite disgusting. These are the kind of people for whom Coldplay songs articulate their deepest and innermost feelings, who believe that The Shawshank Redemption is cinema’s crowning achievement. These people will never understand why I, for example, love listening to Taillights Fade by Buffalo Tom despite it being the musical equivalent of proposing to your girlfriend only for her to tell you that she’s not really interested in you because you’re a bit of a loser actually. It’s a song that wrenches the heart from your chest and throws it against the wall and this is why I adore it so. I like feeling like this. It feels alive.

The reason I’m feeling like this today is that last night I watched Lost In Translation and fell in love with it. It made me ache with sadness and I wanted to watch it again immediately because of this (instead, I watched the Father Ted Christmas Special and laughed myself stupid). I had a feeling, though, that it might be a film that polarised opinion, that many people might not see its attraction at all and I was right. A quick visit to Amazon shows that the second most popular customer review, behind 5 stars, is 1 star. Lots of people just don’t get it and I pity them. They will never understand that melancholy is beautiful. Their life is emptier for this.

Those of us with melancholy in our hearts feel the world more acutely than others, both sorrow and happiness. We long to fall in love because we know no other way, even though we are aware that when it ends, which is inevitable with us, we will be feeling the pain forever. We like autumn. We smile when we see elderly couples holding hands. We see beauty in everything because we are the true romantics.

I’m happy right now. I’m not seeing my family this Christmas and have been adopted for the day by friends and I’m looking forward to it immensely. I’m going to have a really fun few days with people I love and when I return home I can watch Lost In Translation again on my own and feel a different kind of happiness, that exquisite happiness that only us chosen ones, the melancholy ones, are allowed to feel. Happy Christmas to us all!

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