The hidden power of melancholy
"You want to know how it all started? From a question that has been swirling in my head since I was a girl and stayed alone in the university dormitory. I asked myself: why do we like sad songs so much, or minor masterpieces of classical music like Albinoni's Adagio?"
To answer this question, Susan Cain has come a long way: a successful Wall Street lawyer, in 2012 she first published the book "The Power of the Silent - The Power of Introverts in a World That Doesn't Stop Talking". At that time, the book did not respond to the spirit of the time, especially in the USA. But it turned out to be a bestseller, enabling him to devote himself fully to writing books, prompting him to seek the answer to that question about sad songs, and many others, in his newly published next book, The Gift of Melancholy ". The result was a comprehensive examination, from music to art, from religion to psychology, of why our culture is so hostile to the feeling it calls bittersweet melancholy.
First silence, characteristic of introverts, now melancholy. You have become the discoverer of feelings that are out of fashion in this over-connected and noisy society of ours. Did you expect so much attention?
I've always wanted to write since I was a child, and I'm happy for this success and the positive influence I can have on others, even though for me all this exposure has not always been easy to manage. When I wrote The Power of the Silent, many people found it a strange subject. I'll explain it with an example: I went on television to talk to Oprah Winfrey. I was nervous myself, and so was the producer of the show. A few days ago, I was on Oprah again to talk about "The Gift of Melancholy" and I felt a completely different vibe. We are being educated not to hide pain.
Is it a trace left by the pandemic?
Of course, the pandemic triggered the outbreak of a social disease so widespread that it could no longer be hidden. I think we are no longer willing to pretend that nothing is happening.
You go on an interesting journey: resurrect Hippocrates' theory of humors to assert that American culture, with so much global influence, is a "choleric and sanguine" culture. (note: Hippocrates distinguished four types of human temperaments, which were sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic).
The United States is based on the social expectation of smiling. To the question "How are you?" you should answer "Extremely good!". It is not enough to just say "good". But music, poetry, literature, religion tell a different story: they are an attempt to describe the joy and pain that lie at the core of human experience. I believe this other story because it tells a deeper truth. That is, there is a more intimate form of happiness that paradoxically stems from embracing feelings of pain and nostalgia.
You reflect on "compassion", which perhaps all of us have forgotten.
The human experience does not change. What is transformed is our cultural response to what happens. So change is entirely possible, and is actually happening.
Përtej një reflektimi mbi artet, libri është edhe një qëmtim ndërdisiplinor mbi melankolinë, nga feja te kërkimet psikologjike. Çfarë ju ka bërë më shumë përshtypje?
E kam të rëndësishme ta them që merrem me melankolinë dhe jo me depresionin, që është një gjendje klinike jashtë librit tim. Thënë kjo, mendoj se një prej zhvillimeve më interesante të psikologjisë janë studimet se si eksperienca e dhimbjes transmetohet nga një gjeneratë tek tjetra dhe se sa e rëndësishme është lidhja me paraardhësit, sidomos kur ka ndodhur një traumë. Por zbulimi im i vërtetë lidhet me fenë.
Nuk e kisha kuptuar se ajo që po bëja ishte një kërkim shpirtëror. Përgjigjet më të thella për pyetjet e mia i gjeta duke studiuar fetë, veçanërisht traditat mistike. Thelbi i misticizmit nënkupton që ne, si qenie njerëzore, jetojmë në gjendjen e dëshirës për bashkim me hyjnoren: sa më shumë zhytemi në këtë dëshirë, aq më shumë i afrohemi asaj që kërkojmë. E marrë në rrafshin laik, është dëshira për dashurinë dhe të vërtetën. Dhe cili është motori i kreativitetit, nëse nuk eshte kjo dëshirë? Për më tepër, në traditat mistike, po mendoj për Kabalën hebraike për shembull, ekziston ideja që gjithçka në botë është edhe e prishur edhe e bukur, duke u pajtuar me faktin se e keqja në botë ekziston njëkohësisht me gjithë këtë bukuri, pa e mohuar atë.
Is that why, of all the artists, poets and musicians you mention, Leonard Cohen is your favorite?
Exactly. I think about his Hallelujah and how he expresses this concept. But I also think of the poetry of Rumi, the Persian mystic of the 1200s. Now I know what I was looking for when I read it.
*Susan Cain is an American writer and lecturer. She is the author of the book "The Power of the Silent" where she discusses the Western culture that underestimates the abilities of introverted people. The interview was translated into Albanian by Erjon Uka.