ERROL CASTENS: Melancholic is not necessarily morose

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

“The eye is not satisfied with seeing … ,” we read in Ecclesiastes 1:8, and I’m a testament to its truth. The blazing summer bloom of butterfly weed, the soulful depths of my wife’s eyes and the wistful ache of distant horizons can be so compelling that it hurts to look away.
Yet there are days when these pleasures and many more matter less than our younger selves ever dreamed they could.
It’s not that we don’t care anymore. It’s not that we’re morose, though we may take a certain joy in a measure of melancholy.
It’s just that what we would have called in younger decades “resignation” or “giving up” or even “getting old,” our middle-aged-and-older selves call “acceptance” and “appreciation” and “gratitude.”
The compulsion to impress pretty girls gradually yields to the hope of sharing our values with our grandchildren.
Good reasons to stay up late get fewer, even though sleep comes less and less easily.
Temporal dreams, hammered by some harsh realities, develop an advanced degree of modesty. On the other hand, some of the insecurities that beset us in young adulthood seem almost as misplaced as the wails of a toddler over his spilled apple juice.
In the midst of obligations that beset from all sides like artillery, a front porch or a fireside recliner can seem like a welcoming old friend. A touch of boredom seems almost like a guilty pleasure.
Peace becomes a pearl of great price for which we’ll sell everything else.
At some point, we realize we don’t want to control the world anymore, or even our block. Experience with our own and other people’s problems convinces us that any day we can control our own hands, feet, bladder and bowels is a good day.
There can come a day, though, when we don’t control even that. We lose abilities. We lose freedoms. We lose loved ones.
Christian musician and theologian Michael Card phrases it thus:
“A thousand moments that belonged to us
That now will never be
By faith we hold a better dream inside our hearts
A time when our family will never have to be apart
Till then we struggle with just what it really means
And we will mourn the death of our beautiful dreams.”
Maybe one purpose of such loss is to make us less enamored of this world and more enamored of the next – to forge that “better dream” of no tears, all joy.
An old gospel song may have phrased the thought I’m aiming at best of all. With every loss, “I’ve got more to go to Heaven for than I had yesterday.”
To some the thought will seem morose; for some, it’s a melancholy joy.
Errol Castens is the Oxford bureau reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at

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