Sorrow

Mozart died desperate. Not happy, not content. He wrote his last work in despair. Not in happiness. He died on 5 December 1791 and was buried on 6 December 1791. Two days of grief. Two days of mourning. For those who love him, those are days of sorrow. What would there be to celebrate? His desperation for dying so young, knowing he’ll have to leave his children and wife alone in the world, knowing he would have had so much to say through Music in the years to come, yet that day of December was the end of the road? His last look on the pages of the Requiem, the tragic masterpiece that would remain unfinished, while he was hearing inside him the breathtaking sound of his Divine music? What would there be to celebrate? 

Mozart died desperate, not happy. He left the happiness inside his Music, as an eternal gift for us who love him. We celebrate his music, his spirit, his life, in each and every day of our life. We have 364 days in a year to celebrate him in joy, to thank him for the uneven beauty of his music. On 5 and 6 December we have nothing to celebrate. We have only the sadness, the grieving: for his own desperation and sorrow, for his life so short and full of burdens, for the miraculous music he would have composed had he lived more, for the unjust ending of his life, for knowing he left forever, and never again will he walk on this earth… 

Each year I notice a festive atmosphere reigning in the virtual world in those two days. “My Mozart is not sad!” “Instead of mourning his death I’d rather celebrate his life!”… a burst of joy on the social networks in the day of death of a beloved soul. And, of course, many connoisseurs solemnly claiming: “Mozart would have wanted us to be happy, not sad!” How easy it is to commit impiety, in a world who is afraid to feel!

Not long ago I read a wonderful book: Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, by Professor Eric G. Wilson. Wonderful because I felt each word as coming out of my own soul, out of my own spirit. And I realized there is nothing wrong when I feel sadness and melancholy – what is wrong is that the ones who feel like this have become a minority, one which is almost afraid to express their feelings, for fear that such acknowledging would bring isolation in a world of a majority who lives “on the thin ice of modern life”. The author shows a terrible picture of what the culture of “positive thinking” is doing to the spirit of humanity. He is not against happiness, he is not against anything, he’s just pulling the curtain which covers the eyes of those who worship the new god of mankind: “don’t worry, be happy”. He reveres the honesty and beauty of gloom, and recalls the names of great spirits of humanity who found their creativity in melancholy. As one reviewer says, “this book is in one sense a diatribe against the Happiness Industry, the whole Positive Psychology, the mentality which says you have a right to happiness, and you should be happy, and if you are not happy but allow yourself the right to be melancholic and sad, then something is wrong with you, and you have to fight that, and do everything possible to make yourself happy, and show the world that you are happy, because happiness is success. The book is against the Culture of Superficiality which would make us all plastic robots pleasure-hooked forever. On the other hand and more seriously the book is a study of Melancholy and its uses in literature and artistic creation. This positive side of the work seems a much more persuasive than the attack on the Happiness Industry”. 

“It is inauthentic and shallow, charges Eric Wilson, to relentlessly seek happiness in a world full of tragedy. While he doesn’t want to romanticize clinical depression, Eric Wilson argues forcefully that melancholia is a necessary ingredient of any culture that wishes to be innovative or inventive. In particular, we need melancholy if we want to make true, beautiful art. Wilson calls on human beings to recognize and embrace melancholia, and he praises as bold radicals those who already live with the truth of melancholy.” And melancholia doesn’t exclude happiness from one’s life. 

If one day I would meet Professor Eric Wilson, I would thank him for his profound sensibility, for his courage of writing this book, in a world that is drifting away from profound sensibility, from the courage of expressing oneself, drifting away from the heights of spirit and the resonances of heart. A world which is afraid to feel. Because it takes courage to feel melancholy and express it, in a world that doesn’t want to hear about sadness because they are too busy consuming “happiness”. The happiness generously provided by gurus who write books in the “How To” trend: how to change your life through changing your own self, how to attract love and success in your life, how to get to know yourself, how to become happy, how to become rich, how to, how to… Or the happiness provided by other types of gurus, the “spiritual leaders”, who teach their followers to never be sad, but always happy, to never mourn, but always celebrate, because this life of ours isn’t the essence, only the form, and so the small or big sorrows of this life are of no importance… 

In such a world, in such a majority, I am grateful, and happy, whenever I discover someone who is part of the “minority”, part of those who recognize melancholy as part of their being, as a way to express sensibility and creativity. In such a world, the existence of Professor Eric Wilson is reason for happiness!

I feel privileged and honored to be part of the Melancholia Minority, in a company as great as the Great poets, writers, composers, sculptors, painters. Most of them, if not all, were melancholic beings. In such extraordinary company, I am freely expressing my right to mourn Mozart’s death and burial, on 5 and 6 December. In those two days I can’t help being sad and melancholic, simply because this is how I feel, simply because I don’t see what’s there to celebrate about Mozart’s broken life, his death, his burial. I’ll leave the celebration for the other 364 days of the year.

And I won’t end with his moving Requiem, or with his two piano concertos in minor key (the d minor and the c minor), or with his two symphonies in minor key (the g minor and the Great g minor), but with the beautiful Adagio in f-sharp minor from his A major Piano Concerto (No 23) – a melancholic, haunting, breathtaking music written in a time when he supposedly was happy. 

Eric Wilson’s book can be found on Amazon, where one can take a look inside, and read reviews which emphasize the power of this book. Here’s a quote from the description. He addresses the Americans because he lives in America, there where the “positive thinking” trend originated, but this trend has spread to the rest of the world, too: 

“Americans are addicted to happiness. When we’re not popping pills, we leaf through scientific studies that take for granted our quest for happiness, or read self-help books by everyone from armchair philosophers and clinical psychologists to the Dalai Lama on how to achieve a trouble-free life: Stumbling on Happiness; Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment; The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. The titles themselves draw a stark portrait of the war on melancholy.  

More than any other generation, Americans of today believe in the transformative power of positive thinking. But who says we’re supposed to be happy? Where does it say that in the Bible, or in the Constitution? In Against Happiness, the scholar Eric G. Wilson argues that melancholia is necessary to any thriving culture, that it is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation—and that it is the force underlying original insights. Francisco Goya, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Abraham Lincoln were all confirmed melancholics. So enough Prozac-ing of our brains. Let’s embrace our depressive sides as the wellspring of creativity. What most people take for contentment, Wilson argues, is living death, and what the majority takes for depression is a vital force. In Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, Wilson suggests it would be better to relish the blues that make humans people.” 

Here is Mozart’s portrait that I love the most. The melancholy in his eyes… 

Mozart painted by Lange in 1783

2 Comments

  1. I feel some relief for my soul to find someone (there must be many) who feel great sorrow for the death of Mozart. I must confess that my mother left us when I was a child, at a younger age than that of Mozart and that makes my deep respect of such event. I’ve thought a lot about his anguish, his family, his thoughts and actions in those last moments. In anguish to compose a requiem in his last breaths, with the air of mystery around the work. The requiem is not my favorite work, the master had to put his best, as he did in all his great work. So I listen to his other works. Congratulations on reflection. In my soul there is a melancholy room, I pretend to ignore it but it is always there. I’ll be bold to inhabit without fear occasionally. Why diamonds have to be so deep hidden to light.

    Siento algo de alivio para mi alma encontrar a alguien (debe haber muchos) que siente gran pena por la muerte de Mozart. Debo confesar que mi madre nos dejó cuando era un niño, a una edad menor a la de Mozart y eso marca mi profunda relación de tal acontecimiento. He pensado mucho en su angustia, en su familia, sus pensamientos y acciones en esos últimos momentos. En la angustia de componer un requiem en sus últimos suspiros, con los aires de misterio alrededor de la obra. El requiem no es mi obra favorita, el maestro tuvo que colocar lo mejor de sí, como lo hizo en toda su gran obra. Por eso escucho sus otras obras. Felicitaciones por la reflexión. En mi ser hay un cuarto de melancolía, pretendo ignorarlo pero siempre está ahí. Seré más valiente para habitarlo sin temor de vez en cuando. Por qué los diamantes tiene que estar tan profundos ocultos a la luz.


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