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The Beauty of Sadness


Justin_Case001

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This is a sister entry to the previous blog about The Lion Guard.  It is recommended to read that one first before proceeding.

In my previous entry I gushed about Disney's The Lion Guard, and how they included a brilliant, sensitive, emotional, and lovingly crafted death scene.  That scene got me thinking more about something I've thought about occasionally for a long time, and that's the strange beauty of sadness.

There are definitely a few emotions that I could do without.  Anger, frustration, annoyance, hatred.  I mean, these emotions are still integral to the whole human experience, but if I never felt those again for the rest of my life, I'd be sound as a pound.  The same isn't true of sadness.  Ironically, sadness without anger can be a strangely beautiful emotion.  This blog may be a little clumsy, because I'm not sure if I can even articulate this very well.  I've never tried.

We've all heard philosophical statements about how joy cannot exist without sadness, or how sadness makes happiness all the better and brighter, or how life needs balance, and the good cannot be experienced without the bad, and I think we all understand that to a degree, and most of us tend to agree with all that, but I think I take it a step further.  Sometimes, I actually find certain kinds of sadness to be... well... pleasant.

We all know that a good cry, when it's needed, can be very cathartic and make one feel better afterwards, but what I'm talking about is more than that.  There are certain moments that, on their face, are the saddest in life, and yet, somehow, in some strange, inexplicable way, can also be the most beautiful, if we let them.

I've never been much in the tears department.  It takes a really big catalyst to make me really cry, but I actually wish that I could cry a little more easily, because the few times I've done it in my life have actually felt really good, and have been eerily pleasant.  There have been many more moments when I felt like I needed or wanted to cry, but nothing comes out.  And no amount of forcing makes it work.  Most of my life has been spent in a state of depression or mundane annoyance and frustration, which just feels like it's rapidly aging you, shortening your lifespan, and wreaking all sorts of physical havoc on your body.  But those rare moments of pure, unadulterated sadness have been... I want to say... actually... almost euphoric.

That death scene I talked about from The Lion Guard--that scene was unbelievably sad, but it was, without question, the most beautiful scene in the show, and really, one of the most achingly beautiful scenes in any show that I've ever seen.  When thinking about similarly sad but beautiful scenes, another that instantly comes to mind is Iroh's Tale in Tales of Ba-Sing-Se from Last Airbender.  (Oh yeah, you know what I'm talkin' about.)  I absolutely love these kinds of scenes.  It's not that I'm glad that a good character died, per se, nor am I rooting for them to die.  However, I find such emotional death scenes to be by far the best and most beautiful.  Another prime example is Violet Evergarden, a show packed with gorgeous, emotional gut-punches.  You better put on emotional body armor for that show, cause it's gonna hit you in the feels so fucking hard:laugh:

Why do I love these scenes so much?  Why do I find them so beautiful?  Is it something about the meaning of life?  Something about a valuable lesson on how to live?  A lesson about the preciousness and brevity of life?  All of the above?  Something else entirely?  I'm not quite sure.  I'm not even sure if searching for that answer is a worthwhile endeavor.  Perhaps it's wisest not to question, but to just feel.

But is this feeling of beautiful sadness only relegated to fiction?  It turns out no.  As I said, I'm not much in the tears department, and I've also been extraordinarily lucky that I haven't dealt with much death in my life.  All of my grandparents have died, as well as a couple of extended family members, but I was never very close with any of them, and it didn't affect me very much.  I've never had anyone extremely close to me die.  Not yet.  But none can escape, as death comes for us all.  However, I have experienced the death of many pets.  My family had pets the whole time I was growing up.  I remember the death of each one, but none affected me quite like our last cat.  We got her when I was a teenager, and we pretty much knew at that time that she would be our last pet.  We didn't want to take care of pets forever.  I loved that cat more than any of our other pets, and bonded more with her.  She outlived all others, and for over seven years, she was our only pet.  She moved across the country with us, and helped make our new house feel more like home.

Her death at the ripe old age of 18 was unlike any other pet death that I had experienced.  All others had been rather unexpected--a sudden health event, followed by an emergency vet visit from which the pet never returned.  But our cat was different--her death was... well... scheduled, actually.  See, her health was rapidly declining.  It was clear that she was in pain, and not eating much, as animals tend to do near the end.  This was also a complicated time for us because we needed to move across the country--again.  Due to a variety of complicated reasons (some being job-related, and some being related to the boring, stupid reality of the housing market), we needed to make the move in a timely manner.  We couldn't wait another year or more.  The vet, and my mom, completely agreed that our cat could not make the journey.  It would be much too hard on her.  At that late and painful stage of life, stuffing her into a carrier for a cross-country trip, and dumping her into a new house when she was already having trouble seeing and navigating in her own house--all of that would have been cruel.  The vet didn't even believe that she could survive the trip.  We all knew that the end was near, and while we could have prolonged her life for a few more painful months, we needed to make the move, and we all agreed that putting her to sleep now was the best option for everyone, including her.  So, we scheduled the vet visit.

The night before, after my parents had gone to bed, I sat alone with her, petting her and saying my goodbyes.  It was a surreal moment.  I had never experienced anything like it.  It is truly a strange thing--to look into a creature's eyes, into a loved one's eyes, and to know, to know... that by this time tomorrow... they will be gone.  I had no idea how unprepared I was for that.  I sat with her for hours, just holding her, and crying silently, and telling her that she would be okay.  But here's where it gets strange--in an eerie and inexplicable way, that moment actually felt good.  And not just in hindsight, either, but right then, in that moment.  I didn't run from the emotion.  I didn't push it away.  I wasn't afraid of it.  I just embraced it, let it all in, let it all out, and let it all wash over and through me, and there was something wonderful about it.  Don't misunderstand me--there was no part of me that was glad that she was dying.  Not at all.  I can't really explain it.  There was just something extraordinarily, indescribably, achingly beautiful about letting this sadness happen and just experiencing it.  And naturally, my eyes are full of tears right now as I type.  I cannot reminisce about this experience without some of the emotions returning.

But you know what's also strange?  It's now over seven years in the past, and when I think back to that night, crying with my cat are some of the most pleasant and wonderful memories that I have.  I know how that might sound, but again, please don't misunderstand.  I wasn't happy to see her go, as I think is abundantly evident, and moreover I still miss her today, but when I call those memories to mind, they don't feel painful.  It's not the same kind of pleasant as remembering an actual fun, happy event, but it's pleasant in a different way.  When I surrender to the memories, they just feel... warm... beautiful... and even comforting in a way.  I don't fully understand it myself.  I don't even know if it's possible to understand it.  I don't even know if we should understand it.  But that's how it feels.  Still sad, but somehow eerily wonderful, too.  I love those memories.

Is that weird?  Is it just me?  Does anybody else feel this?  I know I'm not alone, because I've listened to several podcasts with people who work in hospice care who have repeatedly said that the end of life for people can be amazingly beautiful if you let it.  I think I know what they mean.  Death has much to teach us.

However, I think that death can only bring this sort of ironic beauty in certain contexts.  Firstly, the death must occur at a point where we'd agree that it was "their time".  That is to say, the death must be at the end of a good and full life, a life well-lived, and at a time where we don't feel like this person (or pet) went before their time and was robbed of life.  A tragic death before one's time is incredibly painful, and it's almost impossible to see beauty in it, particularly if the deceased was the victim of a crime.  Such tragedies are accompanied by feelings of anger, hatred, and confusion, which amount to some of the worst suffering on the menu for the human condition.  Secondly, I think that in order to experience this strange beauty, those left behind mustn't be alone.  That is to say that once the loved one has passed, you, the still living, need to have at least one other loved one still with you.  It's hard to imagine feeling any sort of cathartic, beautiful sadness if you're left completely alone in this world.  But if a loved one passes in a peaceful way, at the end of a full life, and those left behind aren't alone, then the end of life can bring a strange beauty and deeply meaningful lessons if we let it.  I can't speak from experience about people dying, but I think I do understand this to be true.

I want to wrap this up before it rambles on too long, which it absolutely could.  Certain types of pure sadness, unaccompanied by anger or hatred, can be eerily beautiful, and it's an emotion that I would never want to purge from existence.  And, truthfully, I kind of wish that I could feel that way just a little more often...

 

 

 

 

What, did you actually think I was going to end this blog without mentioning BUTTERS?!  :twi:  HA!  :laugh:

Spoiler

 

 

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I don't agree with the idea that we need "balance." I can imagine a world with less sadness, and that is a better world. You don't need pain to feel pleasure. Most of the time people are at a neutral state. I can imagine being happy or neutral, and never feeling sad. That would be preferable.

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1 minute ago, Merry Brony 42 said:

I don't agree with the idea that we need "balance." I can imagine a world with less sadness, and that is a better world. You don't need pain to feel pleasure. Most of the time people are at a neutral state. I can imagine being happy or neutral, and never feeling sad. That would be preferable.

Personally, I feel the pain makes the pleasure sweeter. Can you really be happy if you don't know what anything else feels like?

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20 minutes ago, ChrysalisM said:

Personally, I feel the pain makes the pleasure sweeter. Can you really be happy if you don't know what anything else feels like?

Yes, easily. You were happy as a child before you lost any family. Shall you cut off your right hand to better appreciate your left? (Sounds like a Bible quote.)

I think this idea of "balance" is just a way to make us feel better. But we would, if we could, choose not to feel sad . There is a comedy website where these 2 guys were playing D&D, and there were 3 NPCs in the party, and their alignmmet was neutral. At one point the DM had the NPCs murder another NPC for no reason. The other player was like wtf? The DM said, they are neutral, so every good act must be balanced by a senseless act of violence.

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On 2022-12-06 at 6:08 PM, Merry Brony 42 said:

But we would, if we could, choose not to feel sad

I wouldn't choose to never feel sad.  I would choose to rarely feel sad, and to not have any avoidable tragedies happen.  No, of course I don't need to cut off my right hand to better appreciate my left.  In fact, (and I have a feeling this might get me into trouble with some folks) it's a big pet peeve of mine when victims of horrible tragedy say that they are immensely grateful for the tragedy because it taught them something about appreciating life, etc, etc.  Like, a person loses a limb, or their eyesight, and then they gain all this perspective about appreciating life to the point where they actually say that if they had it to do over again, then would wish for the tragedy to happen again.  This irritates me to no end.  I think it's bullshit.  Now, if one does indeed experience those positives after a tragedy, that's fine.  That's great, in fact.  I'm all for making lemonade from lemons, but here's the thing--every positive lesson that people learn from tragedy?--all of those lessons are there to be learned without experiencing the tragedy.  All one needs to do is pay attention.  I could write a whole essay just on this.  The point is, I do not believe that we need tragedy and unnecessary suffering in order to fully appreciate the good, and moreover, you can find silver linings in a tragedy without being downright glad that it happened.

However, I don't think that that's what I was advocating for in this blog.  And moreover, I certainly don't think we need an equal amount of pain and pleasure, or good and bad, to balance each other out.  That's grade A bullshit.  Occasional sadness can have a strange beauty to it, but a little goes a long way.  I don't want it that often.  And I was speaking strictly of natural death--when people and pets reach the end of a good, long life and die when it's "their time".  That's what can be beautiful in a strange way, if we let it.  I think a life without sickness, physical pain, and needless misery and tragedy would be great, and I hope we invent Star Trek tech to get us there some day.  I don't think you need to be sick to appreciate being well, and I don't think you need to be miserable to appreciate being happy.  You can learn to better appreciate the good without having to experience the bad firsthand by learning how to pay attention.  But what I'm saying is that I wouldn't want to block out or recoil from the natural process of death--the circle of life.  Hope that kinda clears it up.

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