Wednesday, September 24, 2014
While there is time
"We feel melancholy when we consider:
"The things we love are transient.
"Yesterday will never come back. Every day you take a step nearer to death. The people who cared for us when we were young are getting older. We’ll be following their path to decline soon enough.
"No one truly understands anyone else, loneliness is basic, universal. Every life has its full measure of shame and sorrow. We spend our lives striving for things we mostly don’t get – and if we do, we are soon disappointed.
"They’ll grow up; they’ll encounter money worries, the difficulty of making a career, addictions, political conflict, illnesses and relationship frustrations...
"We are melancholy when we grasp that there are deep troubles essentially bound up with being human. And to take that fully to heart is to become more compassionate.
"Religions have been advocates of melancholy. The Christian Book of Common Prayer gives a statement to be recited at funerals:
"Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower. In the midst of life we are in death.
"It’s intended to strike home a universal, melancholy thought. At the funeral of a loved one we are not just witnessing the passing of one life. We are invited to see each other – and ourselves – as dying animals. This should not make us desperate, but rather more forgiving, kinder and better able to focus on what really matters, while there is still time."
-Excerpted from the essay "In Praise of Melancholy," found in thephilosophersmail.com/virtues/in-praise-of-melancholy/
I have no inkling about the identity of the writer of these words that I found today. Were they written by Monsieur Alain de Botton himself (poet Marj Evasco introduced me to his works)? Or was it by one of many other contributors to The Philosophers Mail, the School of Life that teaches EQ? There is no byline or tagline to help me in the attribution to a source.
But the essay, the first online matter I happened upon this morning, captures down to the last punctuation mark what has been causing the roiling that has been going inside my shell. These rough waters are safely unseen by the world.
As I re-sized the photos I shot from a recent trip to Bohol, I realized anew that I could relearn and not tire of certain lessons, certain sightings that teach me about life's fleetingness. These lessons make the contradictions of every day bearable like the need to be social and at the same time a strong compulsion to isolate oneself (get thee to a cloister where nuns can leave you be until you are ready to be with the world), the need to be still and quiet and the necessity of speaking up, asserting, etc.
During those five days I rose before sunrise to open the sliding doors that led to a balcony in one of the rooms of the Bohol Bee Farm. I beheld another morning in a place both familiar and un- (I seem to be drawn by an unseen magnet to Dagohoy country; I've visited it a few times, but recently it felt like I was seeing it with a child's pair of eyes).
Several times I stood by the rails to watch the synchronized flight of black birds headed purposefully towards the east where the sun rose over the Mindanao Sea. The sight never failed to strike me dumb. Yes, I stood there at a loss for words. In failing to find those words, I was humbled.