How is it possible to enjoy sadness?

To argue that desiring to experience the fullness of sadness is equivalent to "enjoying" the process is to argue the point of view of a pre-adolescent. Great art, and certainly Adagio for Strings qualifies for that category, reaches and touches and unlocks the most profound darknesses of the human heart. Even modern "sciences" like psychology recognize the necessity of accessing the pain, the detritus of trauma, and releasing it in the most conscious way, so that the pressure may be eased and not fester within, like lancing a boil.

Great art accomplishes this on a level before speech, indeed before thought, and aligns humans with the mind of God. Beauty, like sadness, is in fact inexpressible, and must be experienced rather than thought about. Artists are like lightning rods for the common emotion of humanity itself. All of which is, like the sidelines discussion of Picasso indicates, the reason that "literary" artists of the 20th century so rarely reach the significance of the work of people like Samuel Barber and Morten Lauridsen, for example. Art that is driven by an agenda fails, always, the true test of art's purpose - ars gratia artis.

Posted by Rob De Witt at October 10, 2014 10:50 AM

Well Rob, I was going to say something like that but you did it better I think.
My contribution may be that this sadness of art can make our own little real sadnesses more bearable somehow in a mysterious way.

Posted by pbird at October 10, 2014 10:54 AM

Oh, well said, Rob!

Posted by Joan of Argghh! at October 10, 2014 11:10 AM

It always feels good to sing the blues.

Posted by Joan of Argghh! at October 10, 2014 3:06 PM

I have this in my play list. Can be listening to AWOL Nation on minute, Samuel Barber the next.

Posted by sTevo at October 10, 2014 7:02 PM

I was 28 as I watched this funeral while stationed in Tampa. So haunting, so sad and so perfectly expressed the grief of the day. Though I am much older now, those eerily restrained violins never cease to move me and I remember....

Posted by mary in OH at October 10, 2014 7:27 PM

Your emotions are a beautiful diagnostic - it is important to learn its language.

As the Poets do, find the words that match the feeling - whether sad or merry - and you'll get one step closer to pinpointing your 'location' in whatever wilderness you are in.

Kahlil Gibran puts it nicely too:


On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquillity:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

~Kahlil Gibran

www . katsandogz . com/onpain.html

Posted by Cond011 at October 10, 2014 8:35 PM

I love Barber's Adagio. In addition to the strings, there is also a wonderful choral version.

Posted by Sarah Rolph at October 11, 2014 4:48 AM

Nostalgia (home + pain) being a painful pleasure so common as to be nearly universal.

Posted by Estoy Listo at October 11, 2014 9:57 AM


Here's another tack, Gerard.

You do not have complete control of your emotions.

Yes, you can through Force of Will make yourself 'happy' whether by self deception or by blocking it, but as you get older you find that burial of your real feelings on a subject tends to amplify and add strength to them at a later time - usually in the dark of night when you least want to have it come forth. Those who have had turbulent and troubled lives (ermmm... like me) realize the destabilizing/unbalancing effect of those darker emotions and so understand that it is better to turn and face them - hopefully one by one and at the time of your choosing - and NOT as it chooses to in the dark night of the soul.

Back to control:

We cannot directly control our emotions - and if you do foolishly attempt to do this (Blocking/Deceiving-oneself), it means you'll have to face them eventually in some 'dark alley' when you least want to face them.

The indirect way to control your feelings is to do to them what you would do for a good friend who is feeling down:

You listen to your feelings. Listen honestly. Try to understand why you feel that way and give yourself answers/rationales to help you cope with these feelings. Soak, Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Many, many times the answers you come up with are wrong, so try again and again until you get it right enough until you are satisfied. Honestly (the more brutally honest, the better) is key.

Eventually, you do come up with the right answers (or should I say 'more right' answers). Right enough where you are both satisfied with the answer and its glib/portable enough so that it can be taught to someone else. Nearly anyone else.

The resulting answers can transcend (or at least dilute) the pain and sorrow of the issue being confronted even though the negative emotions remain. Sometimes the dark emotions are turned to joy, but many times it doesn't. The mere fact that the issues were addressed also has a healing quality, too.

So... just as you would do for a suffering friend, you can do for 'the self':

Going for a walk and reflecting on issues that trouble you inevitably does make a difference and if your lucky, you can 'share the medicine' you used, with someone else who had a similar experience.

Posted by cond0011 at October 11, 2014 5:38 PM