Cures for Boredom and Melancholy

 

To the Marianne Moore poem, “Poetry,” which begins, “I, too, dislike it,” I always respond, “That’s too bad, it always speaks so well of you.”

I like this response for all confessions of distaste, especially in cases where it makes no sense, as for example, “I hate this cold weather.” I always dreaded winter, but I think my body has changed its mind. In winter you see more of the sky. Perhaps time is a wraith who spins the globe of the earth by pulling on the leafless trees, always reaching out to pull down whatever part of the planet is in autumn. April is the cruelest month, as we have been told, and for the right reason, it breeds lilacs from the dead.

Imagine the energy it would take to sprout a flower. Better we should essen a little turnip root and stay under the red rock. Wear your trousers rolled? Not in this weather baby. If we figure out how to do brain transplants and grow brainless donor bodies from stem cells, how young a body would you angle for? Being small in a big world, with big memories, might be too frustrating. Still, go back far enough so you feel like you could sprout a lilac. Do you find life difficult? I do. I’ve tried all the cures: gargantuan, infinitesimal, pandering, Teutonic, arboreal. The only thing that ever worked was thinking aorticly: take it one heartbeat at a time. Also, lathe-ily, when wracked by lack of decision (should I be at my desk, or with people?) by making the day into a pile of sawdust representing desk, and another pile of sawdust representing people, and then I blow both days away and wait to see which one my shadow rushes to save. Yesterday I told a friend largely confined to bed rest to try to underdo it. But it is difficult. Similarly, I have often thought that there are few ne’r-do-wells, compared to the copious rare-do-wells. Ne’r say ne’r.

Here is a pared down depiction of one of the great prose poems, Hysteria, by TSE.

“She laughed I was aware of becoming involved 
in her laughter and being part of it… drawn in by short gasps,
inhaled at each momentary recovery, … An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading 
a … cloth over the rusty
green iron table, saying: “If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden…” I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of 
the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, 
and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.”

Can I call blog readers “bleaders”? Yes. Bleaders, the point is not the best thing you can come to, yet it is always good to do so, eventually. As I have discussed in previous posts, meaning is a carcass full of bees, dripping syrups. But, the goal is to doubt. Debunk. Or did you want the bunk? No. Out with bunk. I know that the goal is to doubt, and yet I doubt the goal. Our only choice, it seems to me, is to pick one particular symptom of one particular hysteria and concentrate on the alleviation of it, with careful subtlety.

I have written a book on the history of religious and philosophical doubt and disbelief all over the world through all history. Doubt: A History My next book was an equally aggressive, if less universal, sally at the windmill of science. The Happiness Myth. What remains is poetry and psychoanalysis. As I’m always telling people, you may love the Renaissance, but you don’t want to use their toilet paper. Or go to their doctors, or use their childrearing techniques or take on their science as your own, or follow their religious worship. But the art holds up.

 

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About jennifermichaelhecht

I'm a poet with a PhD in the History of Science from Columbia University and I've written five books, two poetry, two popular philosophy, one intellectual history. I live in Brooklyn with my husband and our two little kids. I teach seminars in poetry in the MFA programs at The New School and at Columbia.
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