Sailors’ Hospital by R. S. Thomas

It was warm

Inside, but there was

Pain there, I came out

Into the cold wind

Of April. There were birds

In the brambles’ old,

Jagged iron, with one striking

Its small song. To the west,

Rising from the grey

Water, leaning one

On another were the town’s

Houses. Who first began

That refuse: time’s waste

Growing at the edge

Of the clean sea? Some sailor,

Fetching up on the

Shingle before wind

Or current, made it his

Harbour, hung up his clothes

In the sunlight; found women

To breed from – those sick men

His descendants. Every day

Regularly the tide

Visits them with its salt

Comfort; their wounds are shrill

In the rigging of the

Tall ships.

With clenched thoughts,

That not even the sky’s

Daffodil could persuade

To open, I turned back

To the nurses in their tugging

At him, as he drifted

Away on the current

Of his breath, further and further,

Out of hail of our love.

.

by R. S. Thomas

from Not That He Brought Flowers (1968)

Последняя любовь (Last Love) by Fyodor Tyutchev

Towards our end, as life runs out,

love is more troubled and more tender.

Fade not, fade not, departing light

of our last love, our farewell splendour.

 

Shadow overshadows half the sky;

far to the west the last rays wander.

Shine on, shine on, last light of day;

allow us still to watch and wonder.

 

What if our blood runs thinner, cooler?

This does not make the heart less tender.

Last love, last love, what can I call you?

Joy and despair, mortal surrender.

 

by Фёдор Иванович Тютчев (Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev)

(1851-4)

translated by Robert Chandler


A reading of the poem in Russian:

Fun facts: Counted amongst the admirers of Tyutchev’s works were Dostoevsky and Tolstoy along with Nekrasov and Fet. Then later Osip Mandelstam who, in a passage approved of by Shalamov, believed that a Russian poet should not have copy of Tyutchev in his personal library – he should know all of Tyutchev off by heart.

 

Cherophobia: An Aversion To Happiness

Cherophobia: An aversion to, or fear of, happiness and the act of taking steps to deliberately avoid experiences that may invoke overtly positive emotions or happiness in one’s self. An aversion to the emotional state of happiness. An exaggerated or irrational fear of gaiety or happiness

People suffering this believe that should they experience happiness then something negative will occur in order to punish them for their sense of satisfaction. It is believed to be more prevalent in non-Western societies where personal happiness is less valued in comparison with the West. Western cultures are more driven by an urge to maximize happiness and minimize sadness. Failing to appear happy is often a cause for concern. Its value is echoed through Western positive psychology and research on subjective well-being.

In non-Western cultures it may be considered that being happy provokes bad things to happen or that being overly happy makes you less considerate of others and thus a worse person overall. Expressing or pursuing happiness is bad for yourself and others around you.

It is perhaps more about how in certain societies ‘worldly’ happiness is seen as sin be it the Buddhist view that those obsessed with acquiring financial wealthy over spiritual enrichment or the Roman Catholic view of the seven cardinal sins the concept of ‘that which brings immediate happiness in the physical world distracts you from a higher spiritual goal with sin, shallow understanding of life and the decline of society through selfish agendas’ is echoed across many cultures. Thus using the personal happiness of an individual, at any given time, cannot be considered an over simplifying yardstick for long term satisfaction, and attitudes such as aversion to happiness have important implications for measuring happiness across cultures and ranking nations on happiness scores.

My view on this? It is instilled in a person through negative reinforcement, most likely in early childhood, which colours their perception of what is ‘correct’ when considering positive experiences and having an ever present need for self control to ensure the negative consequences of previous experiences do not reoccur.

A simple comparison might be to give the following example: Two people go to a music concert. When asked if they enjoyed the first says enthusiastically yes speaking in hyperbole but very little factual detail. The second agrees but is more reserved in their comments. They discuss the technical side of the event and weight the experience against previous similar events. The first is visibly happy while the second sounds as if they are being polite but didn’t actually enjoy he event. However they may not wish to sound as enthused as in some previous experience when asked the same question they experienced a negative reaction to a voiced opinion.

I think cherophobia is more about the perception of those who freely display their emotions casting judgement on those who are more reserved in their emotional displays. They try to judge the person’s experience through their own and thus seem to be unable to conceive that people have different behavioural patterns to their own and thus try to label it. In this case with a Greek word compounding which sounds more authoritive than it is as there are few, if any academic papers, which use the term cherophobia when discussing the psychology of emotionally introverted people. In my personal experience growing up I was always weary of being ‘too happy’ as it led to a loss of self-control and there were times where this had negative consequences.

Society demands people not be happy and thus we find ourselves not being through a constant influx of negative reinforcement regarding what an acceptable appearance, mind set or lifestyle is. It is a vicious circle. As Mary Shelley discussed in her novel Frankenstein monsters are not born but moulded by society’s creeds, prejudices and pride.

Ultimately you are responsible for your own happiness. It shouldn’t be at the cost of others but, at the same time, you should not let others dictate to you who you are and how you should enjoy experiencing your own, unique, life.


This was a short piece. A throw away piece. Let’s see if it floats.