Hey look! I made it to Member III! I didn’t even know that I was in Member II before! What are Members?! And why didn’t I notice them before?! I am pretty sure that we have four levels of sections and subsections going on here: Parts, Sections, Members, and Subsections. Wow.
So anyhow, at last: Melancholy, or: “a kind of dotage without a fever, having for his ordinary companions fear and sadness, without any apparent occasion.”
Also, sometimes melancholy is kind of nice: “for to some it is most pleasant, as to such as laugh most part; some are bold again, and free from all manner of fear and grief, as hereafter shall be declared.”
I am not even kidding right now. I don’t think that any book has ever gotten me like The Anatomy of Melancholy. Like, that’s me right there, in that last line of Part I, Section I, Member III, Subsection I, that is ME. I am a melancholic person, but I am also a clinically happy person. I am not sure how to explain this, but if you are the same “type,” you get it, right? Back in my PhD days, I specialized in Gothic literature. That is some dark, dark, dark literature. Sure, Dracula is kind of fun. However in most of those novels you have imprisoned/murdered/monster-ized victims of patriarchy – usually with a little incest sprinkled on top – and a dim, dim view of humankind and its dominant ideological hegemony of the moment.
I am a smiley pink-haired silly person. So, often when I describe my dissertation and teaching interests, people were/are surprised. But the thing is, I like Gothic literature because Gothic literature is RIGHT. The majority of humans suck. They are selfish, short-sighted, ignorant, and willing to take advantage of whatever power they were born with. But with all those secret passageways and always evolving monsters, Gothic literature makes this shitty essence of human civilization fun, and even funny. So I guess if Gothic literature were a person, it would be that laughing melancholic Burton mentions here at the end of Subsection whatever it is. And that is the person that I am, which is why I focused my studies on Gothic literature, and why I am still pretty hung up on it to be honest.
In another sense, it’s like you have to be a excessively happy person to be able to handle Gothic literature, just like you have to be an annoyingly happy person to be able to withstand the world we live in without being a total ostrich. Because all the horrors that stupid little humans have perpetuated for thousands of years – without learning much about how not to be horrible – that will make you melancholic. That will make you depressed. That will make you move to the Galapagos Islands.* So as I see it, we have three choices, or three ways live in a world that just makes you want to punch yourself all the time because humankind is just the absolute worst:
- Denial. Everything is Just Fine. This is the easiest and therefore by far most popular option.
- Melancholia, the sad and afraid kind, like in my picture: I think this more or less aligns with what we call depression nowadays. Completely understandable.
- Melancholia, the happy kind: I think this option is not available to everyone. Like I said, this is me, but I honestly think there is an imbalance in my brain that lets me be happy all of the time while also living with the unrelenting knowledge that I am a parasitic nasty little human in a world overrun with parasitic nasty little humans who do things like make a rotten sweet potato con artist our president. Also stupid things like my stupid drawings and this stupid blog make me unreasonably happy.
Which leads me to my last point: I suspect that options two and three are not really true choices. I think they have quite a bit to do with brain chemistry. No doubt talk therapy and a good childhood help as well. Hey, denial is a choice though, so please don’t choose that first one.
Denial is how we all got here in the first place.
*Did you know that a few European families and a baroness moved to the Galapagos Islands when Hitler rose to power? Because they were so sickened by “the world.” BUT THEN, one of them got murdered. Because humans are just jerks and sometimes murder each other, even when they are the humans that have decided to escape all the other jerk-humans and live in a tiny, remote utopia. I think the victim technically vanished, but it didn’t look good. That murder is still unsolved, so it is a pretty amazing story since there were (I think?) only five people on an island that could have done it. Wait, Devon, I think you may just be thinking of an Agatha Christie novel. But oh no! It is real, and there is a documentary about it called The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden.
Sorry, by the way, that I was away for so long. Life stuff. All okay, just time-consuming. I hope your life stuff was good or at least okay this week.
Thanks for reading 🙂
This post is part of a long, tedious, and very illustrated read-along of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. More info here and follow along on Facebook here. Illustrations posted via devon_isadevon on Instagram.