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Melancholy March 3, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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You can’t beat a nice bit of gloom sometimes. And all the more so when it’s inspired a whole lovely exhibition that I’ll dash to the second I get the chance (and which I highly recommend to everyone. No doubt I’m the last person in Berlin to have discovered it, but folk from abroad, if you read this, sell your internal organs, if necessary, to get here and have a look). The blurb warns us that, “A separate section of the exhibition looks at late 19th century scientific exploration of melancholy as a phenomenon positioned between insanity and genius”. I like the idea of positioning emotions. I had my nerves measured by a doctor once, so it’s not as bonkers as it sounds. Anyway, what better way to spend some leisure time than letting my eyes feast on gloom? I love gloom. Not gloomy gloom, as such. And not a gloom that could be called depression, or even, necessarily, sadness. No, it’s a happy sort of gloom. A comforting gloom. A kitchen-sink gloom. A mix of worry, despair and indifference which combine to concoct a sort of bemusement that has me Slavically shrugging, with a wry smile, of course, at my inescapable fate.

I think this type of gloom is awfully good for one. Not if it spirals out of control and makes you do bonkers things like jump off buildings, go to Wigan (for example) to find yourself or enjoy French films with a fucking annoying angst-ridden and troubled teenager who sets fire to things that you’re meant to feel sorry for. No, not that type. I mean a gloom-laden realisation – I think it hits hardest at about 33 – that this is life, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, that, indeed, many of our fellow humans are execrable cunts, it’s all a bit of a struggle and YET, and yet, this is such a happy realisation. Yes, this is as good as it gets, perhaps. And d’you know what? That’s pretty OK. Yes, there are the execrable cunts, but they’re only a fairly huge majority of our fellow man, which still leaves a nicely whopping minority of wonderful folk. (You only actually need about two or three of these in any one lifetime, by my rough calculation (after half a nanosecond of uncorroborated research).) And settling, not in a resigned way, or in a way that means you never have to make any effort at anything ever again, but settling for the fact that maybe grown-upness has struck, that you’re probably never going to go to bed with Frédéric Deltour and that life isn’t going to be one long succession of impossibly good parties, acute sensations, yachts, truffles, sex and beauty but rather a bit of a plod with quite a lot of drudgery but then also a fair dollop of comfort and jolly times thrown in, well, that’s not a bad settlement.

So I highly recommend a nice bit of gloom. If you’ve just done something utterly ludicrous like falling in love and have just gone out on your first joint saucepan-shoppery, well, enjoy it while it lasts, of course, but hurry up and get to the difficult bits. They’re so much more fun. If you’ve won the lottery and are currently doing your training at Star City for that trip into space that was a snip at $75 million, well, hurry up and piss the rest up the wall too so you can get onto the anguish, torture and recriminations of knowing you’ve blown it. I don’t want to discourage happiness altogether, of course, but strive for a bit of gloomy contentedness. As the artists prove, there’s so much to be learnt from the hard times.



1. Geoff - March 3, 2006

I love that kind of gloom. For me, I’ve always found it’s best brought on by a stroll along the prom in a faded English seaside resort in the autumn or winter. (Margate works best for me). It’s one of my favourite feelings, and it’s rare to see it praised so.

2. leon - March 3, 2006

“A happy sort of gloom”. Don’t the Hungarians specialise in this sort of thing?

3. Wyndham the Triffid - March 3, 2006

I’m a glass-half-empty kind of chap, me, with a large dollop of indifference thrown in for good measure. You’ve got to really enjoy those happy times on the understanding that life will prove, over the long run (if you’re lucky enough to have a long-run)to be iredeemably shit. If melancholy was indeed connected to genius and insanity then I’d be Einstein. And I never did like truffles. But enough about me.

*wyndham slopes off to wait for the pub doors to open*

4. Ben - March 3, 2006

I totally agree. I’ll take a good helping of honest-to-goodness wry Weltschmerz to forced positivity any day. This blog is great by the way.

5. BiB - March 8, 2006

Oh good, I’m glad there are a few more devotees of gloom out there. I AM currently the gent in the painting. I’ve even sort of got his hair at the mo, but, truth be told, not the threads, and I don’t smoke hemp (or anything in a pipe, or anything at all much these days, more’s the pity). But I do sit at my big table, less intricately carved than his, and without the Rembrandtian hat, with an equally huge opus flung open and do occasionally flounce languidly into that pose and think, “God, this is a quadruple faggot above a load.”

Leon, are Hungarians good at happy gloom? I know they top themselves like nobody’s business. I’m rather a fan of the Nordic strain of gloom, usually accompanied by lashings of booze. Russians can be nicely self-deprecatingly gloomy. The Poles overdo it a tad, for me.

Ben, you’re more than welcome. Thanks for coming over!

Happy gloomin’ y’all.

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