Do you remember Thirty Days to A More Powerful Vocabulary?
Weltschmerz has a long literary history, according to Wikipedia, that “denotes a deep sadness about the inadequacy or imperfection of the world (tiefe Traurigkeit über die Unzulänglichkeit der Welt).”
Wiki goes on to mention modern American writers who have used the word, among them Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer), John Steinbeck (East of Eden), Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man), and Kurt Vonnegut (Player Piano).
So, fine; it’s a real word, one that has settled in my head of late.
What is “world-weary” anyway? I’m not weary of the world.
Or am I? Perhaps this state has become so normal to me, I no longer recognize it as out of the ordinary.
Is it like those people with chronic winter colds? Has this “deep sadness about the imperfection of the world” become a new normal for me?
I’ve had my flu shot; pity I can’t get a Weltschmerz shot.
Let’s look at my symptoms.
I fear that the world as I once knew it does not exist; that our land of the free, home of the brave, is filled with cowards, sycophants, and sheep.
I fear that our “We the people” I once so believed in, can no longer be trusted to do the right thing.
I fear that Lincoln’s “Of the people, by the people, and for the people,” is now a cause for deep derision.
I fear that this country I so believed in, never actually existed. It was all some Truman Show fiction, in which “We accept the reality with which we’re presented.”
Did our “shining light upon the hill” shine only for particular folk? Were those “huddled masses yearning to be free” admitted only as long as we had land to settle and farm or factory jobs to fill?
My naïveté is not something I’m particularly eager to own. Yet, there it is. I don’t know.
When I pay close attention, I realize I’ve been holding my breath, waiting to see if my ship of state will right itself or will continue to tip, eventually sinking into the deep. Is that Weltschmerz?
How about you? Does it ring true with you as well? What are your symptoms? Or are we, as is often the case with this word, a bit premature; perhaps even adolescent?
NEXT WEEK: How I’m coping, day to day.
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