The greatest madness a man can be guilty of in his life, is to let himself die outright, without being slain by any other person whatever, or by any other weapon than the hands of melancholy.
Don Quixote (pg 188)
I love classical literature. Probably because woven into the fabric of beautiful words that bring to life the comical tragic tale of Don Quixote is plenty a thought-provoking message.
I have frequently visited this quote at various stages of my life when melancholy has threatened to take residence within the confines of my existence. During those times everything in life appeared to pale and take on a dissatisfying element.
Melancholy; a deep-seated depression is a constant state of gloominess brought on by continued indulgence of sad thoughts and emotions. When melancholy takes over, the joy of life is edged out and in time, constant despondence becomes a permanent companion. The tragedy described in Don Quixote is that death in this case is the slow ebbing away of the zest of life.
When faced with failure some people will outright give up on enjoying life. Melancholy and a host of other debilitating emotions then take over their lives. Challenges they might be facing are magnified and with viral precision, negative emotions pervade every aspect of their lives.
So how does one recognize they are about to fall into the merciless choke hold of melancholy?
It is when life seems to lose its luster. When every single task seems designed to tire you out. When the daily goings on are suddenly mindless routines that seem to head nowhere. When nothing is novel anymore and when every interaction is so draining you find yourself tuning out of life. Finally it is when you look back and cannot account for what your life has been like because you have been matching on like a drone numb to the beauty and complexities that have been your constant companions.
It is during times like these, when I notice that jaded feeling creeping up on me, that I take action. I find simple ways to participate in life by doing simple things that breathe life back into me such as:
- Taking a walk where I take in nature marveling and absorbing natural (and man- made) sounds.
- Actively engaging in conversations and wrenching my mind from its constant need to disengage
- Watching a laughter inducing movie and letting mirth suffuse my body chasing away the dreariness weighing down my veins
- Listening to music designed to shake away the maudlin thoughts in your body.
Or just like Don Quixote, engaging in fantasy. Imagining you are somewhere else and in another kind of situation other than the gloomy one you are in. Imagination has a weird way of becoming reality. Engaging in imagination gives you a temporary escape from mundane life. It even has the power to lead you to actively pursue a happier outcome.
If you succumb to melancholy, the joy of life will eventually be squeezed out of you unless you actively take steps to edge it out.