“From the bottom of every fountain of pleasure,” claimed William James (and an old poet) “arises a falling dead of the delight, a whiff of melancholy.” A putrid whiff of meaninglessness and futility, a demoralized sense of time as ticking too quickly away without a sequel, a gnawing feeling that the music of life is a mere distraction from life’s underlying unmusical dissonance and despair, in a cold uncaring universe.
Maybe you have to have a touch of melancholia yourself, as he did, to catch the whiff. I think he probably overcompensated for this feeling in himself by trying to embrace varieties of experience that seemed to counter it, including religious experience he was reluctant to admit as alien to his own sensibility.
When I feel it, only infrequently, I compensate by walking briskly away (figuratively and literally) from the offending odor. And then, as James also observed, “the music can commence again.” He meant that metaphorically, but of course actual music can lift the spirit in ways wonderful and strange.
It spurs one’s appreciation of the music of life, too, to have the small occasional brush with mortality. My gas grill tried to kill me last night. Eyebrows won’t need a trim anytime soon.
I’d decided the other day that I needed to get more actual music into my daily round, and finally plunked down the $25 so Apple would “turn on” & “match” my music. I’ve been having fun uploading my neglected CD collection to the cloud – one good metaphor deserves another – and blasting it back wirelessly through those booming little Bose speakers.
And now, Amazon has announced its new Prime Music service. All at once I’m inundated with musical options.
The best music, though, is still the birdsong soundtrack surrounding these dawn porch posts in summertime.
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