I learned the definition of the word “ennui” when I was pretty young, and when I became an angsty teenager I thought I had finally and viscerally understood it.
But ennui has so many facets beyond the shallow understanding of a selfishly bored youth. There’s boredom, sure. But also tedium. Weariness. Privilege. Decadence. It’s meaning shifts, connotations changing with culture and time.
As such, my feelings around it as a concept have shifted. I stopped tagging my existential frustrations with its name. It became a concept reserved to shade a particular kind of hopelessness – the antithesis to the kind of optimism that I’ve cultivated and clung to for most of my adult life.
Last night I got hit hard with a wave of ennui in a way I hadn’t experienced in a long while. Part of it due to what happened in Paris. Part of it due to the same kind of bigoted outrage that popped up around the retirement of the Lovecraft head as the World Fantasy award. Part of it due to the reappearance of well-worn trains of thought.
Hopelessness. Despair. Defeat. Pointlessness.
It made me tired. It made me weary.
There’s a certain point that can be reached where optimism and foolishness begin to feel like the same thing.
* * *
So I’m reading Sandman Overture this morning as the sun fades in and out behind the clouds through my bedroom window.
To my inspiration, it feels like coming home. The light brushstrokes of beauty, the allusions to the rise and fall of entire worlds of dream, the feeling of a deeper connection between all things – time, love, death, hope, despair – where everything can and does mean everything else. It cultivates a “floating leaf” headspace (as Patrick Rothfuss puts it in the Kingkiller Chronicles books), one where the semantic barriers between concept and thought and feeling becomes porous. Where everything bleeds into everything else.
It’s a place where optimism and foolishness are the same thing. Where inspiration grows from ennui, and melancholy is a sweetness on the tongue.
And for a moment, it makes me glad this is a story that does not end.