Odd how artists, and writers in particular, find themselves so easily afflicted by that sense that poets call melancholia. Perhaps it’s because they are the sort of people for whom dreaming, flights of fancy and reminiscence come easily and are as much a part of everyday living as the more prosaic and grounded aspects of our lives. Those not so afflicted may fail to appreciate that it is perfectly possibly to wax melancholic without any attendant misery or depression – although it’s also true to say that, on occasion, that relationship can be all-too evident. The ‘condition’ is one that the world often frowns upon… diversions such as wistfulness and nostalgia, for example, may well be considered at best, unhelpful and, at worst, positively obstructive – yet, i feel that it is precisely such esoteric feelings that can help provide us with a sense of place and purpose and a grasp of where we fit in to the ‘big picture’. To get in touch with one’s emotional side, without fearing it or considering it to be a weakness is to gain a better understanding of self.
Very recently, the much-loved comic, Clive Dunn passed away – one of those archetypal gentle, bumbling, inoffensive and genuinely amusing people that we Brits are so adept at producing – old-school comedy that gave us the likes of Norman Wisdom, Frank Spencer, Arkwright and Mr Bean. So it was, that at my regular Friday night sl haunt, the DJ played Dunn’s No.1 hit ‘Grandad‘, by way of tribute – a song that somehow always manages to evoke that melancholic feeling in me.
Perhaps it’s the words of the song that grab me, perhaps it’s the tone and feeling of Dunn’s voice, maybe it’s the way it brings back rl memories – whatever the reason, it has the effect of transporting me from the here and now to a world that somehow felt so much simpler and less demanding.
There are other songs, of course, that have a similar effect; similarly, there are images, sounds and even smells that can transport me into that almost-sad realm where the past really does seem, to my jaded mind, to have been ‘the good old days’. In some ways, retrospection is a pointless exercise – the past is gone, no matter how much we may wish that it wasn’t, and – no matter how hard we might try to recapture it – it’s rarely the case that our attempts will live up to those memories that we cherish.
Life – to our great misfortune, some may think – moves on apace, ever more quickly it seems these days; yet no matter how fast the world around us may change, nor how impermanent the things that make up our lives may feel, every one of us has those memories and feelings of nostalgia that are so much a part of us: to take them away would make us the lesser. Today a friend emailed me and asked what my earliest memory was – it’s nothing world-shattering, momentous or extraordinary, just a simple memory of an ordinary summer’s day, yet it’s stuck with me all my life and, when i stop to recall it, the years roll back and none of the present day madness matters any more.
A group of us were chatting recently about what we’d do if ever Linden Lab pulled the plug on sl – not something we’d particularly wish to happen, but who knows what the future might bring? There’s always the lure of other grids and alternative virtual worlds, but for most of those present, that really didn’t seem a tenable option. As for myself… i think there’s only two options i’d really consider: i could get myself a fixed IP, plug my own Opensim grid into the .net and invite all my friends to join me, but that’s probably not really on the cards and, somehow, it just wouldn’t be the same.
The other option is one that, to be honest, i think a lot of people would take. i’d simply switch off the PC, move on, and find something else to do instead, keeping only my memories of sl, to reminisce, romanticise and recall. Yes, there are other virtual worlds but they’d never compare – my friends, the familiar places and the good times would all be somewhere else… an alternative virtuality that only i could log in to, and maybe it would be rose-tinted and idealised, but if memories are all we have of a happy time and place, is that really such a bad thing?
If nothing else, it reminds me to make the most of the present.
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on its face
Noel Harrison – The Windmills Of Your Mind