The ancient Greeks spoke of Pothos, meaning an unfulfilled longing for the beyond and the unknown, so that you always want more. It’s never enough. It’s a word into which is rolled both desire and regret. On the vase in the British Museum, Pothos is shown as the chariot driver for Aphrodite, the goddess of love — literally, love’s driving force.
It’s a desire that’s never satisfied by consummation. It’s that part of the human psyche that exists only to draw us on — not toward something, just onward. Like Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus roaming in the 1960s, its destination sign simply reading “Further”.
The latin root of desire means “ceasing to see”, which could certainly refer to being blinded by our ambitions, but also suggests that we’re ultimately after something we cannot see. It’s a restlessness that we feel that isn’t just our own doing. It’s more than the product of society and discontent. It’s powered by divine fiat, not just mortal ambition but sacred passions. It is what drives religions and science alike, the desire to part the curtain and behold the mystery.
Is longing an affliction? If it is, then its remedy is serene melancholy.
A yearning for something unknown, someone unnamed, or an unexperienced experience…A longing to share beauty (nature, music, art, love), all its glory and brilliance, with intense effect and emotionality. A yearning, that perhaps may be attainable in a minute degree, but the reality is that it is only attainable in passing. That fleeting moment of experience —an awe tinged with sadness —is serene melancholy.
On the surface, it can appear to resemble nostalgia, or a sentimentality. However, nostalgia is narrower in scope. It typically relates to personal experiences, a longing, with the past and the emotions these memories evoke.
Serene melancholy is relating to something we have no prior experience with. It does not require a memory bank. It is a dignified resignation, a resolute acceptance. It is firmly rooted in the present and extends to the unknown.
Serene melancholy is a a blended emotion, or an emotional experience in which you feel more than one emotion at once. Life is not simple and straightforward anyway. It constantly changes, and full of the surprises/shocks/turns. It is incredibly complex and that’s what makes life beautiful.