Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Craving for Solemnity

On this blog, and in my writing in general, and indeed in my life in general, I keep coming back to one particular theme, from many various angles. It's not my only theme but it's a pretty prominent one, and it runs through all the others.

Out of one thousand, six hundred and twelve posts on this blog, the one that means the most to me (other than my poem to Michelle) is this one, A Short History of my Priggishness.

In that post, I expressed something that has haunted me for as long as I can remember; a life-long craving for the solemn, the elevated, the refined, the special, the poetic. Not just in my life, but in the life of society in general. I'm going to use the phrase "solemnity" even though it's not exactly what I mean. It's only part of it.

Another post where I touched on the same theme was this verse-essay, In Praise of Solemnity, which got quite a good response.

This craving for solemnity is one of the reasons I'm a cultural nationalist, and a romantic nationalist. I elaborate on that in this post.

This craving for solemnity makes me bonkers for tradition, since even fun traditions are satisfyingly solemn. I've written at great length about my love of tradition on this blog, but especially in this series: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Since, in our post-modernist society, solemnity is often dismissed as "kitsch", and tack is often celebrated as ironic, I wrote a blog post on kitsch and tack, defending the former and blasting the latter.

My little purple notebook is full of moments where I glimpsed the kind of world, or the kind of atmosphere, I crave.

My post on the phrase "the dark side of the moon", and everything this evokes for me, explores the same territory.

The post I recently wrote about my teenage hankering for the fantasy city of Amber is, perhaps, my latest expression of this theme. I'm sure there are many more I've missed, though.

A friend once asked me how, given my love of solemnity, I'm not a devotee of the Latin Mass. I've puzzled over this, and come up with the answer: Mass is already the most solemn thing in modern life, even if it's the Ordinary Form. It's the most solemn thing by far. I don't need Mass to be any more solemn. That would be bringing coals to Newcastle (or sand to the beach, as Americans say). I need the rest of life to be more solemn.

This theme has been on my mind recently, as I've been reading long poetry-- Idylls of the King by Tennyson and Night Thoughts by Dr. Edward Young.

When I read poetry, it makes prose seem so flaccid to me. I become somewhat disdainful, not only of prose, but of everything prosaic. I want all writing to strive towards poetry, and all life to strive towards the poetic. The existence of Terry Pratchett novels, hen parties, and TV shows like Top Gear seems almost unbearable.

This craving for solemnity isn't just directed towards the outside world, though. I yearn to embody this in myself, and indeed I do try.

What value has all this? I'm not sure. This craving leads me towards the sacred, so it seems valuable in that regard. Whether the more aesthetic aspect has any value is not something I can really argue impartially. I'd like to think it does. In any case, this craving is so deeply-rooted in me, I imagine it's impossible to quench, even if I wanted to.

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