What is it about certain people? No matter how cheerful you try to be, no matter how good the joke was, they almost always reply with some gloomy comment becoming of a character from an Ingmar Bergman film. They glean some pleasure from putting the kybosh on your cheery mood. There are varying degrees of melancholy, and there seems to be no remedy for the determinedly depressed. Should you encounter one of these creatures, it’s best to leave.
“Go – you may call it madness, folly:
You shall not chase my gloom away.
There’s such a charm in melancholy,
I would not, if I could, be gay.”
- Samuel Rogers (1763 – 1855)
I will cautiously suggest that autumn has arrived in Rogaland. For some, this is an optimistic time of year; for many, it is an opportunity to be gloomy about the approaching winter. It’s sunny, but better get the tyres changed; you never know, there might be a blizzard soon. Feeling rather cheerful myself, I mistakenly talked to a local about yesterday about autumn. I remarked upon how pleasant an afternoon it was. He looked at me with the weight of the entire world on his shoulders, and replied:
“Yes” -- pause, with a measured inhalation of breath-- “but they have forecasted rain later.”
The expression on his face could have slain a soufflé. I attempted to buck him up by moving swiftly on to how pretty the flowers were in his garden. He looked at me, wounded that I had not joined him in his melancholy, and went on to lament his weeds.
Smiling politely, I drove off.
The same despondency can be found when watching a seemingly innocent football match. On another occasion, I went into a pub to watch one on TV. The match started and the home-team was in control of the ball, they bypassed the opposition’s defence, and scored. Hooray (?)! The man beside me did not share my enthusiasm. Nope, all he could say was:
“Oh, the match isn’t over yet.”
Sipping my beer, I saw that this fellow’s gloominess was more advanced. He didn’t shake his head as his words fell like the last person did; there was very little doubt as to how dismal he felt. Play on.
But before you reach for your bottle of Cipramil, the good news is there’s a remedy for it; macabre humour. It has the potential of sounding sombre, but leaving the door open for laughter, if so inclined.
I once heard two people discussing fire-safety. The handles on the doors were loose and if they came off in your hand, you wouldn’t be able to get out. You’d be burnt to a crisp. This was a perfect conversation to have over lunch, I thought.
Whilst agreeing to the seriousness of the situation’s potentially fatal outcome, I encouraged them to look on the bright side of things by saying that at least you wouldn’t burn your hand on the handle, then. They looked at me, shocked, having been upstaged by somebody even more funereal.
But they did smile when it had sunk in. After all, this was nothing to laugh about.
(First published on aftenbladet.no, 11.03.08. Revised, 16.09.09)
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