Melancholy or Nostalgia

By Jorge D. H. Prósperi, 2019

Writing the last chapters of my life is certainly different from those introductory chapters lived while the majority of friends and colleagues were present and thinking that all of us would remain present forever. Time considered as a fixed state of being.

Time’s reality was at a distance. But through the years, the essence and importance of time grew as it became compressed. Flesh and bone defying time’s gravitational pull. Second and third chances to make things right – admit that I was so wrong – even apologize – ask for forgiveness.

Time comes calling unnoticed, seemingly sneaking up in slow motion. Time is ever present as a determinate – one way or another – filing away yesterdays, influencing todays, nudging tomorrows.

In so many respects time is a trickster, seemingly having the last hardy laugh. We tend to be fooled into believing that we can control its uncontrollableness. Yes, we can wear a watch, see it digitally on our phones, but time really can’t be bought or owned. We end up only trying to manage it. Our lives seem to be regulated by it – officially measured and proclaimed sacred since 1884 via the Greenwich Meridian Line and Royal Observatory in Greenwich England. 

The Persistence of Memory, 1931 – Salvador Dali

Great minds have speculated about time such as Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, Well’s Time Machine, Gleick’s Time Travel. The Mesdames Whose, Which, and Whatsit exploit space-time in L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Leaving us to ponder possibilities of being transported into the past and future.

Rock and rollers have mentioned time relentlessly. Pink Floyd just called it by its name. The Rolling Stones stated that it was on their side and waited for no one. Led Zeppelin warned that our time was gonna come while Bob Dylan provided hope that it would be changing. Jim Croce wished to save it in a bottle. Cindy Lauper reminded us of the suitcases of memories time after time. Eminem implored us to let it go, keep living life cause it’s your time, your time, your time, your time.

The movie neo-noir psychological thriller Memento sequenced time backwards, forcing us to view time’s relativity in reverse, while viewing it in black, white and color. Musicians use metronomes to keep time. Dancers, be they classical or free stylists, use time to shape rhythm, tempi and pulse. Athletes sprint trying to beat it.  Salvador Dali iconographically referred to its persistence and passing, melting it before our very eyes.

Mirrors provide glimpses that time is passing – a few wrinkles, droops and sags here and there. So do relationships, establishing credibility and trust over time – or not. Life relentlessly ticking away, with Einstein inviting us to keep in mind its relativity – its transitional lines between past, present and future. So how do we, in simplistic terms, define time – its dimensions – its meaning?

We can certainly enter the world of classical physics to try to make some sense. But the majority of us are not equipped with such scientific knowledge. We deal with and face time on a more human and personal level. We discover its meaning by noting that we are getting older – experiencing instances of reflection and wisdom – literally feeling its effects – not only on body but heart and spirit.

Its dramatic bell begins to toll when we begin to lose family members, friends and colleagues. We sit in silence as a eulogy resonates from within. We pause when we hear of an actor, athlete, politician, or author who died and take notice that they were our age.

Time does not only make us aware of loss, but rather provides choices by which to deal with it – melancholy or nostalgia? Often both are thought to be similar but there are differences between melancholy and nostalgia that impact our thoughts and feelings on life itself.

While both concepts could be debated philosophically, it was a candid conversation between Sting and Vince Gill on melancholy and nostalgia that provided insight as to their meaning through the lens of time.  https://youtu.be/62XpfpBZ2to

Both spoke of how they viewed melancholy as artists and how it impacted their artistry and humanity. In their view, there is something soothing about experiencing melancholy, especially when remembering the authenticity of past experiences and relationships.

Time brings with it a finality – an unsettling feeling about what was – what was perhaps taken for granted without the option to rewind – to give that last bouquet – to find the last few words to be heard and felt.

I guess that I don’t mind the angst that comes with what the Portuguese call saudade – the presence of absence. That absence of presence has different meanings for each of us, created while life was being lived. The quality of life, within any span of time is ours to validate, recognize and venerate. Even in loss, it’s the authenticity that lingers within melancholy.

Perhaps one of the greatest of all melancholy times is recalling loving and being loved in the many different ways that love provides. Times when love seemed all that was needed. Times when loving became as important as being loved. Times when love was synonymous with unequivocal, selflessness, going beyond tolerance. 

Oh how we love to stretch, squeeze and play with time. Perhaps what we are ultimately left to reflect upon are the hurried anxious blurts of a white rabbit who was seemingly always passing himself…

“I’m late, I’m late for a very important date. No time to say Hello, goodbye!
I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Followed by sharing what many of us continually feel… 

“The hurrier I go the behinder I get.”

 … leaving us philosophically to ponder

“How long is forever? Sometimes, just one second away.