The Beauty in Sorrow

Do you ever put on a sad song or a sad movie, or get out some old pictures, or watch some old videos, or just sit and reminisce, with the deliberate attempt to feel a certain way? A certain bit of a coordinated sense of longing, or sorrow? Perhaps you’re not quite sure exactly what you want to feel, but you know you want to feel something powerful. Maybe you've just been through some tragic ordeal and you need to relate with something, or maybe you're falling into old memories of long-lost times, just tragically misplaced in this crazy world we inhabit and you merely want to bask in the familiarity that these memories can bring back to the surface. Or maybe you're not even sad at all but just want to enjoy the depths of the emotions on display in these acts. You might just be a little bit lonely and simply want to identify with something you can feel deep inside your core. I, for one, can relate to each of these and I don’t doubt that any reader can as well. Sorrow is one of those things that you can always rely on to fill you with emotions so powerful because your own interpretations of a thing define how much impact it has, and this can be a wonderfully beautiful thing if your will is powerful enough to utilize it toward some gain.

There are of course a vast many causes for one to be sad, ranging from the loss of a dear friend or pet or family member to a tragic breakup or distant memories of some cherished good times…the possibilities extend endlessly in between and on either side of the broad scope of what usually brings us to this place where sorrow broods solitude. They all have their own varying degrees of severity, of duration and depth, but they are all similar in that they belong to the same sort of "family" or class of emotions. They all invoke whatever longing emotions you have attached to them, amplified to whatever extremes by whatever severity they originate from through your personal experiences and the weight of consideration you’ve placed upon them. Sometimes you just want that intensity. It puts you in a particular realm of thought, emotionally, where you can then look upon everything else from a certain unique vantage point that doesn’t exist in the normal routine mindsets that generally occupy your thoughts. And from such a vantage point you can appreciate whatever brought you there so much more deeply, so much more wholeheartedly, even if only in retrospect in order to avoid a recurrence of whatever the source is. This is definitely valuable, but there is so much more to be enjoyed if you have the proper mindset. By no means does such an emotional state have to be entirely a bad thing.

There is a deep-rooted beauty in the musings of sorrow. I've always thought this was a bit strange, a little counterintuitive somehow, although I've felt and appreciated such emotions for as long as I can remember. Positivity buried inside the negative manifests a certain kind of hope and admiration of life. Even when I was a little guy, as early as eight or nine, developing my tastes for my very first “favorite songs,” they tended to be sad ones. And I know now that I didn’t actually even truly understand the depths and the meanings of the songs I adored—I had of course never truly loved, or lost,  friendly or romantically, or been otherwise emotionally damaged or esteemed… but I adored them anyway, even if I was singing along with lyrics I could not possibly comprehend. Looking back, I’m sure that one of the primary reasons was for the certain quality of the vocals in such songs. I had already discovered a love for the emotional display of a singer singing a sad song. There’s something in the voice, in the finest among this class of music, which stands apart, especially when the singer seems to be particularly passionate about the song. A raw display of emotion and the unashamed willingness to express it to anybody who cares to listen has this immensely deep beauty which I cannot help but admire and empathize with. I still remember holding my little cassette recorder up to my alarm clock/radio before I was even a decade old and recording songs I liked when they happened to play on the radio. This was my introduction to the concept of creating playlists like I still spend so much time doing today. The tradition has remained, evolving along with the technology involved. I still listen to some of those very first songs, some fifteen years later. Some of them I even now understand and relate to on a personal level, which has only helped to enhance their values.

At first the idea seems a bit counterintuitive, of sadness being a desirable emotion to seek out, because I think sadness is generally (and not necessarily for bad reasons) considered to be an undesirable one. But with the proper considerations you can escape from this gravity well of negativity that seems to pull so many far beyond any enjoyable level. I've become a lot more comfortable with this over the years, and I've found that if you look a little deeper there are some undeniable and incredible benefits as long as your mindset is sound and effective enough to realize them. There is so much raw, unfiltered beauty down there in the depths of sorrow, just laid bare for you to see and identify with and perhaps even reconcile.

From such a mindset you have the most potential to gain—at your will, of course. It is of utmost importance that you don't just sit and wallow in the sorrow. This is where the generic unfavorable viewpoint from most people comes from, I think. It seems to be a clich√© that sorrow brings further sorrow, and nothing else. As if it’s an endlessly spiraling descent into hopeless despair with no personal value until you manage to halt your fall and haul yourself back up without ever looking back down. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be this way, because this vantage point from the depths of your mindset is where everything else looks most beautiful. When you've sunk to some level, everything that is now above you looks so much better in its new light. This is perhaps the easiest gain to get out of all this: the appreciation of something that you once took for granted, now that you’re gazing longingly up at it. Maybe you will get it back, and maybe you won’t, and maybe you never actually lost it. Whatever the case you will have a better, hopefully more appreciative understanding of it, and how to hold on to it or how you might have lost it and how you might reacquire it.

Basking in this state of emotions, down there in the lonely pits of your mind, what once was dull and uninterestingly familiar now appears so beautiful up there above you… and what once was already beautiful now looks even more beautiful. And even what once looked dark and fearsome down there underneath you now looks merely dull and familiar once you’re staring it in the face. In other words, everything just got better, at the cost of your relative position. I think this is the critical thing to consider. You have to be able to accept this realization that you are in a “lower” place now, but from this lowering you have a heightened potential to appreciate. And you should make the fullest possible use of this opportunity. You can grant yourself access to appreciations otherwise overlooked in your day-to-day routine. They are always there; they are always in your grasp… but understandably, they get lost in the daily motions of a busy life. And so this is why I feel like some time occasionally set aside to focus on such emotions is such a valuable pursuit. Put together a playlist of the deepest and most heartfelt of the more emotional songs in your collection, or some touching movies or books or poems and when you find yourself with some downtime get them out and just enjoy relishing in the gloriously beautiful displays of affection and feelings that these artists are pouring their hearts out over. They don’t want you to feel miserable; they want you to have something to connect with and share with you. They want you to be comforted by the idea that so many other people have felt very similar feelings, and they can be shared with the world in all their sorrowful glory. And they can be overcome.

It’s a rather generic saying that you should not “dwell on the past.” And while there is definitely some value to this, there is also some value to doing just that. It’s the ratio between considerations of the past, present and future that really matter—because the past happened. And this past, utterly unique to you, influenced you and your present state of being in the most profound and intricate ways imaginable. Be it good or bad, everything that you’ve ever been through is valuable to your collective experiences of life. A hopeful future is much more solidified if you have the gains from your past miseries (and successes, of course) to build from. If you can spend some time considering some past event, and its consequences on later events and on your own present mindset, then you should be able to glean some sort of insight into something deeply meaningful. Good memories, whether or not you are in a comparatively “good” situation at the moment, should bring you happiness. But if your present state is a particularly troublesome one, then such goodness might be in conflict with a powerful sense of longing and threaten to pull you down even farther. This is normal, though, up to a reasonable level, and is combatable with a strong will. Understand where the line between what is not able to be influenced (but has every possibility of providing insight) and what you actually have control over (the present and future) is. In this way all of your musings can be constructive.

And even if your present state is actually a particularly good one then you will probably experience some sense of longing anyway when you let such emotions flow. Your first-hand knowledge of the outcomes of even the most tragic memories helps to paint them in a positive light. Nostalgia doesn’t differentiate much with “good” or “bad” (at least in my experience); it merely reflects on past events that you miss simply because they are gone. There are always ways to appreciate memories, if you care to seek them out. You just need to know what you’re doing, know what you intend to gain from this pursuit, and how you can relate it to the present day. Don’t see it as “dwelling” in its negative sense, but see it as dwelling positively by evaluating and cherishing and learning. In this way, effectively executed, you can’t go wrong because you can only gain and benefit. Because you are still alive today you have survived whatever experiences of your past you remember to be so troublesome, and they now offer so much potential in analysis.

But putting aside the potential to evaluate and learn and improve, both the deepest and highest beauties still remain. Because at the bare root of it all, emotions on display are beautiful because they are laid bare. How often have you refrained from telling somebody something because you were uncomfortable with putting yourself so far out on the limb? It can be a terrifying thing… and so the courage to do so is beautiful in itself. Emotional songs (as well as other media) are so successful because, to a degree, we all feel the same things. Our minds aren’t so very different. They are shaped by experiences so unique to us that I think this consideration of species-wide similarity is easy to overlook. But it is so powerful a thing, to realize the similarities that exist between all of us despite utterly unique sets of experiences personally. On a fundamental level we are all so much alike, despite vast differences in appearances and habits and experiences. If you are feeling something, deep in your core, rooted to yourself so deeply that you can hardly imagine anyone else feeling the same way, there must be countless others who feel something so similar that the self-righteous comparison is almost trivial. You can find a connection to relate with, if you are willing to genuinely try. Even your next-door neighbor you might not have ever spoken to most likely has depths of feelings more than enough to form a powerful bond with.

This is beauty in its highest regard. The miniscule differences that separate each of us, genetically, and yet make up individuals so unique, yet at the same time so familiar to each other in the grand scheme of things, is absolutely incredible! My mind is so boggled by my thoughts of such things, and how privileged a position each of us is in. I oftentimes find myself so troubled by the unwillingness of people to share their deeper thoughts and feelings with one another, or even with themselves, and yet at the same time I find myself so amazed and prideful at the humble display of so many others who are eager to share with others. There is definitely a rift between the two extremes. We, as humans, are the only beings who can understand each other on anywhere near this level. And so every single possible connection is priceless—there should not be any reason to give it up entirely. But the very attributes that set us apart from every single other species also give us the capacity and the “reasons” to fear and avoid such interactions. This is understandable, of course, in its own right, as I am certainly one who fits into this unfortunate pattern at times. Some people just do not present themselves as approachable at this level, for whatever reasons, in which case there is only so much you can do. But I am always trying my hardest to fight it. And I want to try my hardest to inspire others to fight it, as well. Because the capacities of our emotions are so incredible, so unrivaled and so inherent of so much more potential than any other creatures on the Earth that I find it among the most tragic of disasters that so much of this potential is left to wither away and die rather than being embraced and shared among us.

In the midst of all the chaos of everyday life, there just isn’t time to devote the resources of the mind to fully comprehend what is nesting away right there in each of our heads to be gained from. But it is there. And I think that the differences here, between what is commonly felt and what is only felt during the most extreme cases, is one of the factors that make the consideration so powerful. On a typical day, barring a random encounter with a particularly deep thought or a memory or a song or a scene from a movie, we do not tend to devote time to these depths within our minds. But this same tendency creates the differential that gives so much value to these depths when we can devote the time to appreciate them, when that certain song does randomly play on the radio or when we set out mindfully to click it. When relating to someone who is sharing their sorrows—whether it’s an actor in a movie or a singer in a song or a dear friend on the phone or sitting right there next to you—the invoked feelings you must be experiencing are in such contrast to what you feel in the vast majority of the passing moments of your regular routine that the mere difference here provides a springboard for appreciation and for empathy of the highest importance.

Empathy is what I’m trying to get at, here, overall. Empathy is when you can be sorry and compassionate with someone (even with someone portraying an actor or singing a song), and clothe yourself in the mantle of another person's emotional reactions—to genuinely understand and relate to what they’re going though. I think the capacity to experience this is one of the highest beauties of this world. That any one of us has the ability to peer so deep into the mind of another, to relate their experiences with those of our own, and to offer our own personal insights and our best personal advice or just simply share in the collective appreciation of this connection, is just astounding. Pick any two random people in the world, and (barring communication barriers) they have untold potential to share, to learn, and to appreciate between and from each other.

…And there are over seven billion of us. Endless possibilities abound.

So we can all do it—share, reflect, learn, and appreciate what each of us has to offer ourselves, and each other. Even if it’s nothing more than a touching song that relates to something you’ve been feeling, or through empathy have the capacity to feel almost as if you did, and you feel like someone else might also feel for, this is a luxury. A luxury beyond compare, because even though our minds and our hearts reside only in our own experiences, we have the ability to express them for others to relate to. Endless possibilities are laid daily at our feet, and at the feet of others, and our minds are subject to nothing but our own applications of our thoughts and feelings and experiences in terms of these. They can be shared, to whatever extent any person is willing to share them. We all can identify with each other with even the smallest effort. Even the deepest-felt sorrows are really beauty-filled meadows with more than enough space for all of your acquaintances and personal interests to gather and work together toward some positive end. We all share this inherent capacity to relate to each other’s feelings, and only offering some raw, unfiltered expressions will open the door for others to come in and join you in your considerations. There is a profound beauty in sorrow if we let it flow through our being and shape our understanding of this crazy world and the events which unfold within it.

Sometimes there is nobody around you to share with, or at least nobody who is willing to climb down beside you. In these cases, perhaps making up the majority of such instances, it is crucial that you be able to work through the pain and sorrow and regret entirely within the confines of your own mind to find the beauty that is hidden within. Reminiscing on old, dearly missed good times can foster more appreciation in that you ever even had the opportunity to be so content. Reflecting on a failed relationship of any sort or some attempts that never quite made it that far can bring some very troublesome feelings, but they offer so much insight. So relating to a powerful song or scene from a movie can help you because you can recognize the sorrow in a way that applies it somehow to your own mind. And knowing that somebody else in the world felt something so strikingly similar and was able to express it in ways that channel the connection for you to grasp can be such a comfort. Sometimes this is all you need in the world to feel a little bit more at ease. Ultimately, sorrow makes the good, and even the potential for good, that much more beautiful. And thus, the best is yet to come.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 2:29 AM


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this, thanks a lot.

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