Sunday, November 21, 2010


As I indicated below, I recently had occasion to re-take the old 4 Temperaments personality test and came up with what I usually come up with. But this time there was a difference that rather surprised me.

I wonder if I might be mellowing in my old age but I as somewhat surprised to see that my spread was 85% Melancholic and only 15% Choleric.

Good grief! I thought, what has happened to my cheeful, bloody-minded fightyness? Am I depressed or something? Is it the weather? The short daylight hours at this time of year? It's been stormy and windy and rainy out in the last few weeks, unusually so for this part of Italy, getting pretty dark and gloomy by 4 o'clock. Is this putting me into a Gormenghast sort of mood?

I admit that I did attend a Hallowe'en party a few weeks ago dressed entirely (and quite elegantly I might add) in black. People asked me what I was dressed up as. I managed to resist the temptation to reply, "my mood".

But being professionally Emo is just sooo 1980s. Didn't that guy from the Cure actually have the eyeliner tattooed onto his eyelids? Or was that just a rumour?

I have to admit to having admired the Goths when I was a teenager. I would have gone in for it myself, but I thought to do the thing properly you really had to be wraith-thin. We've all seen it done badly, but I thought I could do it justice. I think I just had too much of a sense of sense of personal irony to go for it though.... But really, deep down inside, I always wanted to be Morticia Addams.

A while ago, a friend was talking about her ideal wedding. The usual thing really. White fluffy dress, orange blossom, one of Rome's gorgeous Baroque churches... I will cherish the look I got when I said I'd always dreamed of an Addams Family wedding. "All the bridesmaids can wear black satin, I'll carry a bouquet of rose stems with the flowers cut off...We can have Faure's Libera Me for the processional..." She thought I was joking. (People often do.)

I can't help but think there's something more fun about the Goth subculture than we usually give them credit for. John Zmirak recently delighted me when he wrote that the appeal of the Addams Family was that they were really Goth Trad Catholics, afloat in a sea of suburban banality.

It's our very comfort with the queerness and creepiness of the whole soul-body mystery that marks the Catholic faith off from its closest competitors. I grew up loving The Addams Family, without knowing quite why, until one day as an adult I realized: These people are an aristocratic, trad-Catholic homeschooling family trapped in a sterile Protestant suburb! Shunning the utilitarianism and conformity that surrounds them, they face the Grim Reaper with rueful good cheer, in a Gothic home stock full of relics. Indeed, I think I might have spotted several Addamses at the indult parish in New York City...

I thought he hit on something there. Goths are outsiders, like us, and they are people who know instinctively that they have been robbed in the sterile materialist "real world" of something that we all have a rightful claim to.

Beauty, mystery, transcendent Reality filtering down through the sacraments, through painting and music and sculpture, into our banal little material world.

Why do we think everyone went mad for Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code?

We need secret meaning. And we have a right to the sadness that permeates life in this world.

And what's not Goth about the mummified incorrupt head of St. Catherine displayed in a silver reliquary? In fact, I'm surprised there aren't armies of Goths coming into the Church since Summorum Pontificum just for the Requiem Masses. Memento Mori and black velvet and gold thread vestments with banks of candles and skulls and crossbones everywhere? They should be like ants at a picnic.

Anyway, maybe the solution to being mildly depressed, (or maybe even seriously depressed) is to embrace it and laugh at it a bit.

Finally, we know that such things are not of The Real anyway.

To paraphrase Aristotle, if you can't get out of it, get into it.



PCM said...

The style called "Gothic" is mostly about light and verticality, regardless of later ideas about cobwebs and bats. I think there's something more theatrical (baroque even) in that kind of popular neo-Gothic.

Regarding melancholy, have you ever read Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso? There's even a "Gothic" scene of a sort in the latter, unspoiled by 19th century romanticism.

Anonymous said...

I pointed this out to an older, hippie generation friend back in 1991. He asked me to explain goths to him, and I said, they are all from the suburbs and the most beautiful artificial location available to them was always the cemetery. They are healthier and saner than those of their peers who sought out natural beauty in a landscape stripped of all signs of man. - Karen

S. Petersen said...
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Rosalind said...

C# minor: you can't get more melancholic than that...

My choleric-melancholic flatmate and I had an idea of inventing a number of suffixes for the English language to indicate temperament: choleric sounds would be brutal and explosive, phlegmatic sounds easy to say and monosyllabic, sanguine endings would be full of 'tralalala' and 'hahaha', while melancholic endings would be complex and difficult to enunciate.

We also had a rather mean idea of a t-shirt saying, "Sanguines: no one cares about your day."

But I guess the sanguines could wear one saying:
"Melancholics: only happy when they're not."

S. Petersen said...
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Mark S. Abeln said...

"laugh at it": also the advice of Walker Percy in "Lost in the Cosmos".

I do think the Goths are onto something, as were their intellectual forefathers the Romantics and Decadents. Not quite sure where to draw the line, for the endpoint of this sort of thing is either at the end of barrel of a gun, or at the foot of the Cross.

S. Petersen said...
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