clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world

Overwhelm, fatigue, wonder, pathos and melancholy


What a week. Nearly every day this week contained the potential for blog after blog to capture some of the impressions and musings from my small slice of our collective world. Yet night after night I found myself ‘flat out.’ with overwhelm, fatigue, wonder, exhaustion, and finally melancholy. Now I am telling myself, Enough, already, and am making myself write something to you, my blogger friends and family near and far.

What I am musing just now is something about passion and pathos, those intense emotional states which humans have capitalised on for as long as anyone can remember in order to create the greatest art and cultural works of our world. There has been much speculation these days about the changes that humanity is collectively going through as we spiral up the evolutionary road towards…. bliss? Nirvana? Everlasting happiness, paradise? It is difficult to even put words on what this new time is actually about, since we are heading straight into completely uncharted waters, evolutionarily speaking. monk-meditatingHowever, if we take the world’s greatest wisdom traditions as a guide, for example, the goal of zen buddhism is total enlightenment, or becoming awake, a fully conscious human being. Some of what I have been reading for months now, points to the idea that once we become truly aware of our divine nature, we will naturally live in a blissfulor paradisiacal state perpetually. I take this to mean it will be joy and light and grace everyday-in-everyway.… the archetypal image of harp-playing, angelic beings floating about in long, light robes, utterly benevolent, radiating only loving, joyful, happy Yes! Energy forevermore. Well, that is perhaps one variation of a theme… but you get the idea. In other words, in this newly minted world of Peace, Joy and Happiness, those old emotional states of passion, desire, melancholy, and pathos will simply be passé, a funny memory, relegated to the dusty tomes of yesteryear, forgotten and good riddance, right?

And yet. As an artist and lover of high art and culture, I cannot help but wonder how our human life will be without intense emotionalism, without the old depths from which such gloriously, magnificently, profoundly deep emotional artistry arises. If we are all walking or floating around the planet in a perpetual state of bliss and peacefulness, won’t it be a tiny bit, well, flat?


Dear Readers, I know I am treading on thin ice with these thoughts tonight. Of COURSE we all want peace, love and happiness to be the soupe du jour forevermore, don’t we? We are sick and tired and exhausted and nearly dead from thousands of years and who knows how many lifetimes of strife, violence, hatred, greed, and other equally negative states of mind and being, andso we are now collectively saying, No more suffering and separation, thank you! We are ready for the peaceful, harp-playing, robe-wearing, ever-smiling, everlasting happiness world NOW!! Glory Hallelujah. And not a moment too soon.

Davids_Face-everypainterpaintshimselfAcross the world of Great Cultural Achievement, it only takes a moment of reflection to see that without pathos, the world’s greatest artworks would be seriously hampered. If we only had art (including visual, music, poetry and verse, dance and drama) that reflected happiness and joy, I believe our cultural heritage would be extremely less rich and beautiful. One could use the analogy of eternal summer and daylight, a world without the mystery and depth which belongs to evening, nighttime, winter.

Of course, I could be totally wrong. Perhaps life without passion, darkness, suffering and pain would create the most fabulous works of cultural achievement so rich, so incredible that we cannot now even begin to fathom such a world. Perhaps the future world of peaceful happiness will produce works that will make Beethoven and Michelangelo seem like child’s play in comparison. It is impossible to fully imagine what a non-suffering human world would look like, since no one alive on Earth has the faintest recollection of such a world. All we have to try to grasp it is fragments in ancient stories, such as the garden of Eden in Genesis’s account of our first, paradisiacal world. Not too much to go on.

Okay, I admit it: I am a died-in-the-wool melancholic to my soul’s depths. I can no more imagine living in perpetual sunshine and roses than I can imagine living without breathing the air. For those of us who live with sorrow as easily as with joy, a future without the shade, the dark, the depths, seems nearly impossible to fathom. I feel like a traitor even uttering these forbidden thoughts tonight, dear Readers, since so many of you seem so Up With JOY! And I hate to disappoint any of you with even the slightest hint of anything less than. And yet. I am musing as sincerely as I can about this, because it concerns me deeply. What is this fifth dimensional life really about, is it about letting go of emotionalism altogether? And if so, what would humanity be like without it? No more highs or lows, simply a constant state of Om?

I will end this little musing-rant tonight with some wiser words, from the great poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. He was a person of great sensitivity and insight, a true artist and believer in truth, love and humanity. He wrote, “How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples – those myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses, only waiting to see us, once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible in our lives is, in its deepest being, something helpless, that wants help from us.”

and, “So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever known, if a restiveness, like light and cloud shadow passes over your hands and over all that you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.”


Author: SingingBones

When we sing over the bones, we are calling the wild nature, the instinctive soul back, singing it alive again. To live with our wildness intact, is the greatest gift a woman can give herself. "It is the holy poetry and singing we are after." C.P. Estes

15 thoughts on “Overwhelm, fatigue, wonder, pathos and melancholy

  1. You melacholic beauty, you! I DO NT see evolutionary life with out emotion,,,,but I do see it without useless emotion caused by egoic fixation…there is a difference! Speaking of art, I am here in a small cottage in West Devon, UK, writing another booked tentatively entitles LOVING IT ALL; LIVING WITH AN AWAKENED HEART, and I am experiencing MORE emotion that ever before…but also intense joy and,yes, sadness…for no reason. I believe the emotional capacity is what makes us HUMAN……..I love your melancholy…it is a beautiful thing……


    • nice comments, my tall Texan friend. I will ponder your words, even as I wonder what you actually mean by ‘useless emotion’….. are you saying there is good emotion and bad emotional states? would the zen buddhists agree about that, do you think?


  2. First of all, thank you for the pingback 🙂

    Second, I agree with David Banner above – that I think the feeling of emotion is intensely needed, but it’s the running away, the not facing it, the continued holding of it and turning it into a story with which to destroy ourselves – that we should be cautious of.


    • Hi Stephanie, thanks for coming by and reading my blog, and commenting! I hear you… my mind is really good at turning the emotions into a story alright. Such a tricky, slippery character one’s ego is…I always come back to one of my father’s (bless his soul) favorite expressions: this too shall pass!! blessings, Leigh


  3. The Buddhists say “all life is suffering,” but that doesn’t mean what Westerners think it does. (We tend to think of all life as suffering in a rather Hobbesian fashion, but that’s so 17th century!)

    The best thing about a toothache may be how relieved one feels after the pain stops. Suffering reminds us to celebrate moments of non-suffering. But when suffering goes along unrelievedly…well, despair can be difficult to avoid in those cases.

    Have you heard of people who have a rare nerve/neurological condition that keeps them from feeling pain? The condition is life-threatening. Turns out we NEED pain in order to navigate our place in the real world. Likewise we need emotions, sorrowful, joyful, angry…to navigate our social world.

    Learning to use those emotions as skills or social tools, learning to control those emotions to deal with our own sense of selves-in-the world and to be compassionate to others–that’s rational and reflective and fully engaged. Not melancholic! Practical! It’s just achieving the balance that is so hard. At least, that’s been my experience. Hang in there.


    • Thank you, Ann. As always, your words contain practical wisdom. I appreciate them tonight. And no, I have not heard about those people who cannot feel pain. I wonder if that applies to their emotional pain as well? that part might not be so bad, some days..:) hugs, Leigh
      ps: have fun with your poetry class! wish I could sit in…


  4. Hi. It’s all a mystery to me. But in my own life, even the worst things have provided some small measure of good and I know I would be much different without them. Jane


  5. Thanks for the quote from Rilke. I shall carry it with me this afternoon as I join my village to the climb and lay a dear friend to rest.


  6. Wonderful post. Questions and themes that I find myself contemplating all of the time… When I find that there is an inherent sadness in almost everyone I meet (not that its overwhelming in some, but that in even the incredibly optimistic and cheerful folks, that is in the contrast to the pains they have endured, or perhaps in spite of). I realize that I am not isolated (and you are not either) in these pitfalls of melancholy and introversion. Because for awhile I felt like there were genuine reasons for it, but I’ve realized lately that those are besides the point. Whether there are ‘reasons’ for happiness or sadness is not why we feel what we do. I don’t believe that we can live an honest life by fully controlling our emotions, and I agree with the poster Jane above who noted that there is never a bad experience without a measure of good. I was thinking recently how if Arrow hadn’t died, I never would’ve painted ‘April Showers Predict May Disasters’ which was the start to a whole lot of paintings…as it is with humanity, who would need to write or paint if they were overcome with constant joy? There would be no joy if that was all we felt. Perhaps we would secretly want a little melancholy, in that rhetorical ‘utopia’, if only to grow! Emotion gives us the opportunity to grow, we don’t always take it, but it’s always a new experience. (Sorry for the long comment! Its just such good thought provoking stuff!)


    • Dearest Julia, I so appreciate your thoughtful comments here. I certainly agree with you, having a good reason for certain emotions doesn’t really have much to do with our emotional state, I suppose because emotions and feelings stem from the heart’s landscape, a place where reason doesn’t exist. I continue to ponder the concept of ‘controlling one’s emotions’ but mostly believe that, as the buddhists suggest, the best thing is to not do anything in particular with emotions except to simply notice them, and let them pass through one just as storms come, pass over the land, and eventually leave.
      What a salient point you make that there would be no joy if that was all we felt. Wise people have written that the reason we became separated from our creator, or source, in the first place, was so that we could have the experience of what was NOT joy, in order to learn what it IS. Question is, when will humanity figure it out?
      Thanks again for your comments, and thanks very much for following my blog!! I look forward to more dialogs about life, love and everything else with you! Leigh


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