A blend of joy and melancholy upon encountering beauty

by Sydney Franklin


The more beautiful something is, the sadder we risk feeling. – This is a concept Alain de Botton speaks on in eloquent detail in his book The Architecture of Happiness. We can experience this upon observing all of the arts, even the flawlessness of babies or mountains in nature.

When my friend ZB and I would enter museum after museum during our 2012 European tour, we would struggle to commit to staring at all the timelessly famous works of art. We felt we weren't worthy of looking at them. I would practically do a double take walking past the Degas' ballerina portraits or walk backwards into a room housing the likes of a Cézanne. In all seriousness, I would be stunned. My throat would choke up and everything. I felt, all at once, trivial and yet on top of the world. Lucky, even.

"Our sadness won't be of the searing kind but more like a blend of joy and melancholy: joy at the perfection we see before us, melancholy at an awareness of how seldom we are sufficiently blessed to encounter anything of its kind. The flawless object throws into perspective the mediocrity that surrounds it. We are reminded of the way we would wish things always to be and of how incomplete our lives remain."

That's what I've been trying to put into words all these years. We are sufficiently blessed to encounter the opportunities that come before us in our lives.