Is it Angst or Ennui?

I posted a blog Sunday – the first in over a month. To write that ‘I have been ill’ sounds too dramatic because I haven’t actually been sick. Sick-at-heart maybe, but nothing that calls for medical intervention. Every time President Trumps tweets, my heart seizes and stems my blood flow to a crawl. Lack of blood leads to lassitude and hiding my head-under-the-covers. I’m not available: even a dog’s wet nose can’t arouse me.

beautiful 35 year old woman stands in front of the window

Image credit: ISTOCK

Trying to name my condition, I wanted to use the word ennui, but I didn’t know how to spell it. (I was so far off that even spellcheck was no help!) So I typed ‘angst’ into my search engine and ta-ta! I was led to a great site:’ve-got-angst-ennui-or-weltschmerz.

Referencing the site, ‘Angst’ is the word ‘fear’ in German, Dutch and Danish. Kierkegaard described it as a feeling “that disrupts peace and contentment for no definable reason”. Freud used it for generalized anxiety – “brooding about the way the world is.”

The word ‘ennui’ came into use as early as the 13th century, but during the 19th century, the term “implied feelings of superiority and self-regard, the idea being that only bourgeois people too deluded or stupid to see the basic futility of any action could be happy.”

Not to think myself superior, I’ll forego ‘ennui’; I’ll stick with ‘Angst.’ Either condition leads to self-medication. Drugs and alcohol are popular. I have no personal experience but I’ve heard that wild and reckless extra-marital sex is an antidote. I’ve noticed that if a person is so inclined, social media to include chat lines can keep one busy and in denial. Some people eat to dull their senses.

As for me, a bookstore nearly always lifts me up. So many books! The number of productive, creative writers never fails to inspire me. Leaving Barnes & Nobel with my books, I looked at the plastic, carry-bag the clerk had given me. A student’s book report of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was on one side. On the other side of the bag, the words: “Call me Ishmael.” I don’t remember reading Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick since high school. The text swept me away. Such beauty… the kind of beauty missed by high school students studying for character, plot and theme. I took a photo. You can read the words for yourself.

2017 03 12 023

The last sentence certainly speaks to my angst: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet…” Maybe I’ve inadvertently channeling Melville! His words perfectly captured my past state of mind. How beautiful! I will read the novel again. Pencil in hand, I will read, re-read, underline and make margin notes.

After  visiting Barnes & Nobel, I caught The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD at Tinseltown. Verdi‘s La Traviata was on the big screen. Regardless of the opera playing, I never fail to find myself inhabiting the actors on-stage and being lifted out of my funk by the soaring music. The three leads were Sonya Yoncheva as Violetta – a popular courtesan who is dying; Michael Fabino as Alfredo – the man who truly loves Violetta; and Thomas Hampson as Alfredo’s straight-laced father who ends the love affair.

la traviata setThe acting and the singing were superlative, but Willy Decker‘s set design was cutting edge inventive. It was very exciting. With the exception of a large clock and a couch (red in Act I; flowered in Act II; and white in Act III) the stage was bare. The clock – maybe 10 or 12-foot in diameter – represented passing time. An old man, who I initially thought was Father Time, sat near the clock. In reality, the old man was Violetta’s doctor.

traviata-met-clockThe semi-circular shape of the stage apron was the same shape as the base of the backdrop – a backdrop that approximated industrial, corrugated metal. Above the backdrop was an oppressive, circular, black hole. Circles and more circles. During intermission I heard a number of heated discussions as to the set. Some thought it too stark. Others thought that the starkness underscored the theme.

Quoting the set designer, his set “strips away period detail and sentimentality […] leaving behind a harrowing account of how a woman who defies sexual mores is marginalized and eventually destroyed by a disapproving patriarchy.”

But there is more. My favorite image was in Act III when Violetta collapsed on the clock in a crucifix position. What a stunning production! If you have never seent The Metropolitan Opera streaming live from Lincoln Center, you need to give it a try. I have never been disappointed.

My angst is on-hold; my mood is on ascending.  It’s another unseasonably warm and sunny day here in Colorado. (I’ve put distressing thoughts of global warming on the back burner.) Melville and the Met, my drug of choice, will Prozac me through the rest of the week.

















About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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6 Responses to Is it Angst or Ennui?

  1. H Brent Bruser says:

    Lovely Doris.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. marilynjh says:

    Is there truly a movie theater named Tinseltown? What town?

  3. timeout2 says:

    Marilyn! I think I need to take you to Pueblo! Continue east on Highway 50… pass under I-25… get in the left lane. At the first stoplight after the I-25 underpass, your choices are to turn south to the Pueblo Mall or turn north. Turn north. At the first stoplight, take a left. Tinseltown is immediately on the left. Six or seven screens, but with the exception of streaming the Metropolitan Opera, usually not much of interest.

  4. Judy Shanley says:

    Don’t worry about global warming. The last three days got 14 in. of snow & at night temps. below zero. Come on out!


    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Judy, Ah yes! I remember those upstate New York snows. Our daughter Dana lives on Long Island, so I typically have a general notion of the weather back home. We could use 14-inches of snow, but I don’t think you want to trade snow for drought. Christine and I still talk about coming East. Next year, Mark will celebrate his 50th reunion at Villanova. I’m thinking next summer we could combine Philadelphia with Horseheads. We’ll see. If not next summer, who knows. We aren’t getting any younger.

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