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Sometimes there is such beauty in sadness, it hurts so much it becomes pleasurable. How wicked that sounds, and wrong, but sometimes when we are sad we feel the deepest emotional connections that we do not feel otherwise. Why in this profound state of melancholy do people question our perception of what is beautiful and pure? This pure feeling is the closest thing to awe and the sublime that could ever be felt in our humble lives, akin to the feeling of stolen breath when viewing a mountain from its foot, the gasp of air taken as the aroma of the salty sea expands into a horizon of stars and the mystical sigh of love that remains a conundrum forevermore.
It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Sadness should not always be seen as an adverse emotion as it can be beneficial, and periods of introspective emotional provocation do not always mean that we will fall into the bottomless pit of depression and despair. Sadness doesn’t always have to mean despondency and there is a significant difference between sadness and depression, even for those of us who have suffered or suffer with bouts of the latter. Sadness is an important emotion, as uncomfortable as it can be at times. It is part of the whole gamut of mysterious processes that our brain needs to delve into and utilize to keep reminding us of our humanity. It is purposeful and releases inner feelings, untrapping them, and is just as valid a way of expressing ourselves as laughter is. Although it can form part of the dichotomy of our conflicting selves as underlying sadness does, it does not mean that we can’t laugh outwardly, just as being overlying disengaged and sad does not mean that we can’t laugh inside, silently. Sadness plays an important role in our lives and we should not be ashamed to feel sad at times, or feel that we have to hide the fact that we do behind a fake smile. We should be able to speak of sadness freely because it helps us to reflect, guides us toward the things we like, that matter to us, and that make us happy again. Ultimately, sadness walks with us back to happiness and contentment. Thoughts can even make us feel simultaneously happy and sad, channeled through memories, pictures, movies, music, and we need not wrestle with the two emotional states, separating them as we exhaust ourselves in the process. Sadness can be very much part of happiness, so allowing them to co-exist can teach us much as all of these thought processes reveal their sources of our emotion to us. Sadness is not an enemy unless we make ourselves victims of it.
On occasion, sadness is a deliberately provoked emotion, necessary in the expansion of our human understanding to a particular event, situation or person. I would like to share one of my favorite paintings with you, the painting Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which is in the collection of the Tate Gallery in London. This painting could be read one way, potentially, as a symbolic epitome of sadness, with it’s symbolism and embedded iconographic references (see main image). I am not going to cooly give you the full art historical background of this painting, as often the personal life of the artist is muddled up with the iconography of this work, it is easy find online (links also below). I would just like to invite you to consider the image as the sublimely beautiful idea that it is, and the vibe of pure emotional release that it willingly imparts to us, all cloaked in an emotionally responsive sense of sadness-induced beauty (in my personal responsive, non art historical subjective opinion). The exhalation from Beatrice’s breath in her apparent dream-like state, and the hypnotic sense of freedom felt in the idea of that breath, is imbued with beauty both physically and spiritually. Coupled with the tenderness of every brushstroke that Rossetti leaves upon the canvas draws us into this beautifully melancholic yet divine experience of viewing. There’s something voyeuristic about being invited to share such an intimate moment of transfiguration, but, the connection that the viewer makes, even if they know nothing of the background to the picture, can be felt through a common feeling of sadness, because, it does have that aura of emotional weight about it doesn’t it? When I visited the Tate, I stood before this painting and felt the breath on my lips in synchronization with the breath of Beatrice in her dreamy reverie. It was a most moving experience. This painting is so beautiful in it’s reverence of sadness and release that it actually makes me strangely happy in it’s unwitting celebration of this often shunned emotion. It is a pleasure to observe and be involved in the iconography of this painting even though the narrative can be perceived as sad. It is one of the most beautiful paintings in the world, and, although this painting brought a tear to my eye, my life felt richer at that moment for standing with it and sharing in the cathartic moment of the subject.
Sadness may enrich our understanding and take us to unimaginable depths of focus as it forces us to dig deep into our psyche and ask questions, look for answers and give us knowledge to navigate our way out of the melancholic maze. Sharing in the idea of sadness and moving through it together can be a positive thing. Sadness does not always bring lasting misery, but can ignite the light of hope, and sadness can help us on our road to wisdom. It is food for compassion, so, do not fear it, but, do not turn it into something it is not either, accept it for what it is, build your own relationship with it, and allow it to move you back to happiness through the answers you find from delving into the dark depths of yourself, because, sadness can make us stronger when we learn to accept it as a healthy and positive part of our natural wonderful lives.
Online Resources for the painting:
Main Image Credit: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/rossetti-beata-beatrix-n01279
(“Lulu the Green Fairy” by bugk23609)
Lulu the Green Fairy is a writer and poet living in Northern England; she is the UK correspondent for Painted Brain News.