La tristesse durera toujours.
(The sadness will last forever.)
Fernweh is what the Germans call that longing for faraway places, the poetic certainty that things are better elsewhere. But there is a superlative degree of geographic desire, a Fernweh even more sublime: the ache for fictional faraway places. Of such nonexistent locations, the mythical continent of Magellanica surely is the crowning glory. By rights of pedigree and size, it should be the most prominent of of phantom lands. Yet Magellanica is as absent from the imagination as it is from contemporary maps - those prosaic projections of mere topographic fact.
Magellanica has had many names and shapes, and regularly occupied large swathes of the southern hemisphere on world maps from the 15th to the 18th century. The most fantastic climates, cities and costumes were attributed to her. But most cartographers shied away from focusing on this hypothetical, as yet to be discovered continent. Conventionally, it is shown as an upside-down curtain, arbitrarily undulating upward from the South Pole, which in the projection popularised by Mercator is smeared out along the entire bottom of the map. However, this map, from Petrus Bertius’ Tabularum Geographicarum Contractarum (1616) audaciously places the entirely imaginary continent at the centre of the map.
The continent is labelled Magallanica, sive Terra Australis Incognita: ‘Magellan’s Land, a.k.a. the Unknown Southern Land’. The name of the Portuguese explorer was attached to the hypothetical continent because he supposedly skirted it in 1519, but the putative existence of a large mass of land in the southern hemisphere had been posited by Aristotle (4th century BC) and elaborated by Ptolemy (1st century AD).
You read those dates right: the idea that the Earth was a sphere was much more common in Antiquity (and even throughout the Middle Ages) than one might think. But the idea that the ‘Arctic’ continents on the northern hemisphere needed an ‘Ant(i)arctic’ counterweight on the planet’s southern half was based on a false analogy, and the bitter disputes about whether those places were habitable, or their inhabitants doomed, sound completely nuts these days.
Mono no aware is a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of impermanence, or transience of things, and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing. It has frequently been translated as “the ‘ahh-ness’ of things”, life, and love. Awareness of the transience of all things heightens appreciation of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing. In his criticism of The Tale of Genji Motoori Norinaga noted that mono no aware is the crucial emotion that moves readers.
Hikikomori (ひきこもり or 引き籠もり, literally “pulling inward, being confined”) is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or young adults who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement.
As do many societies, Japan exerts a great deal of pressure on adolescents to be successful and perpetuate the existing social status quo. And yet there are in many cases a lack of meaningful rituals concerning the transformation of youth into mature roles. Some younger Japanese people begin to suspect that the system put in place for their grandfathers and fathers no longer works, and for some, the lack of a clear life goal makes them susceptible to social withdrawal as a hikikomori.
The psychiatrist Tamaki Saitō defines hikikomori as “A state that has become a problem by the late twenties, that involves cooping oneself up in one’s own home and not participating in society for six months or longer, but that does not seem to have another psychological problem as its principal source.”
Saudade is a unique Galician-Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.
Saudade has been described as a “…vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist … a turning towards the past or towards the future.“ A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing. It may also be translated as a deep longing or yearning for something that does not exist or is unattainable.
Photo of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner
Anomie in common parlance is thought to mean something like “at loose ends.” The Oxford English Dictionary lists a range of definitions, beginning with a disregard of divine law, through the 19th and 20th century sociological terms meaning an absence of accepted social standards or values. Most sociologists associate the term with Durkheim, who used the concept to speak of the ways in which an individual’s actions are matched, or integrated, with a system of social norms and practices … Durkheim also formally posited anomie as a mismatch, not simply as the absence of norms. Thus, a society with too much rigidity and little individual discretion could also produce a kind of anomie, a mismatch between individual circumstances and larger social mores. Thus, fatalistic suicide arises when a person is too rule-governed, when there is … no free horizon of expectation. [cont…]
A painting of the Desert Fathers
Acedia (also accidie or accedie, from Latin acidĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, negligence) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one’s duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression. Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life. [cont…]