not-sorrow

“Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present”

-TS Eliot

The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

Nepenthe

“Then Helen, daughter of Zeus, took other counsel.
Straightway she cast into the wine of which they were drinking a drug
to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forgetfulness of every ill.”

– Homer, The Odyssey

The medicine for sorrow in the passage above is nepenthe in the original Greek.

Figuratively, nepenthe means “that which chases away sorrow”. Literally it means ‘not-sorrow’ or ‘anti-sorrow’ (Wikipedia)

Any guesses who said the following?

“Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. it is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even try to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.”

The quote is by Woody Allen. His dark humour (whether you’re a fan or not) not only tackles existential issues but offers us the nepenthe of laughter. A bitter cup, perhaps, but an antidote of sorts nontheless. Perhaps every area of human activity – from religion to entertainment and the arts, from sex to sport and chess – though they may be many things besides, are expressions of our need “… to quiet all pain and strife, and bring forgetfulness of every ill.”

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