The Necessity of Sadness

Been reading a lot of articles lately. This particular one caught my eye.

In Praise of Melancholy is an ostensibly perverse article. It not even implies, but bluntly states that sadness and melancholy are a necessity of a fulfilling life.

Though, I agree one cannot enjoy life to the fullest having always experienced the best things, the best things would differ from individual to individual would they not?

For example, the worst thing for the son of a billionaire would be his private helicopter not working, the best thing….well whatever it is these uber-rich enjoy.

The worst thing for a normal schoolboy would be to fail is exams while the best may be to top his school, or country.

Does this mean that the billionaire-son and the schoolboy have never experience melancholy or sadness? True, they may, and the majority of middle class and above, wont experience poverty, extreme tragedy, or some other extreme forms of emotions and life-thrusts. However, within their own confines, they undergo the goods and bads of life has to over.

I think that’s what the author fails to understand; that everyone need not have to deal with deaths and riots to actually be sad. If a person what’s to be sad, there are a million and one reason to be so.

On a side note, the article did point out Keat’s life story. Keat’s one of the poets I like and I know he died of TB, but little did I know his family history etc. A short, tragic but admirable life indeed.

When he was only nine years old, his father fell from his horse and died the next day. A few years later, his mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Though Keats nursed her assiduously, sitting up with her all hours of the night, cooking for her, reading to her, she died in 1810, during Keats’s 15th year. Keats was assigned to a guardian and soon after taken from a beloved boarding school and required to apprentice as an apothecary. He found the work tedious, for during these years, his late teens, he was awakening to the grandeurs of poetry, especially the verse of Spenser and Shakespeare. To complete his training, Keats had to learn surgery. Day after day, he toiled in a hospital, malodorous and bloody, where he witnessed nothing but suffering. As he was turning from surgery to poetry, his first substantial poem, “Endymion,” was published in 1818. Two of the leading literary magazines of the time attacked the poem for not making sense.

Around this time, Keats’s brother Tom died after a long and painful illness. While attending Tom, Keats met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne, and became engaged to her. However, he soon realized that he would never be able to marry her because he himself was doomed to fall prey to the same disease that killed his family members. He knew he would die without ever consummating his ardent love.

One would think that Keats’s life would have fostered bitterness in him, but he remained generous in the face of his difficulties. He didn’t flee to the usual 19th-century escapes: Christianity or opium, drink or dreaming. Though he unsurprisingly underwent pangs of serious melancholia (who wouldn’t, faced with his disasters?), he nonetheless never fell into self-pity or self-indulgent sorrow. In fact, he consistently transformed his gloom, grown primarily from his experiences with death, into a vital source of beauty. Things are gorgeous, he often claimed, because they die. The porcelain rose is not as pretty as the one that decays. Melancholia over time’s passing is the proper stance for beholding beauty.

Keats understood that suffering and death are not aberrations to be cursed but necessary parts of a capacious existence, a personal history attuned to the plentiful polarity of the cosmos. To deny death and calamity would be to live only a partial life, one devoid of creativity and beauty. Keats welcomed his death so that he could live.

Taking this double stance — suffering death while transcending death — Keats was in his pain and yet above it. He developed this interplay between detachment and attachment in one of his most famous letters, written in 1819. “Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?” he asked. He’s here implying that an abstract mind can develop into a full-hearted person only through enduring long periods of sadness and pain.


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