A bowler hat, a broken guitar string, and a jelly sandwich are three things that don’t seem to have much in common at first glance. Yet, there is a string that binds them. They are all things that make me sad. And what’s more is they are all representative of categories that make me sad.
A bowler hat doesn’t seem sad. I’d imagine a lot of people think it’s quirky, or maybe even jaunty. I can’t see it that way, though. For the only people who might wear a bowler hat are hipsters. There is very little as sad as a hipster. For one thing, they feel a pressing need to define themselves. It’s like some weird perversion of Socrates’ saying about the examined life. You don’t learn anything of substance from defining something. You learn from experience. A constant need to define only gets in the way. For another thing, they define themselves as being different, outside, and strange. I don’t care if someone is different, outside, and strange, as long as they are honestly different, outside, and strange. Choosing to be different, outside, and strange makes me sad precisely because of all those people who are honestly different, outside, and strange. Bowler hats are representative of the category of things that make me sad because they are all about image rather than substance. Hugh Hefner and Punk Rock make me sad in the same way. Aside from the clear affectation, there is a sense of wasted potential.
A broken guitar string is more obviously sad. It’s sad because it used to be useful and fun, but it can never be useful or fun again. This sadness is akin to nostalgia. I remember the good times we had, but I can’t help but be aware that they won’t come back. This isn’t a crushing sadness, mind you. I know I can replace my guitar string. There will be good times again, but they will be different. It’s a kind of wistfulness. A broken guitar string represents the category of nostalgic sadness. Scooby Doo makes me sad in the same way. It is this kind of sadness that makes Puff the Magic Dragon the saddest song I’ve ever heard. They are reminders that you can’t go back.
A jelly sandwich makes me sad because it has no peanut butter. I am aware of how close to greatness it is, but it is not great. To approach perfection, but not reach it makes me sad. A jelly sandwich is representative of the category of so near, but so far sadness. Every album T-bone Burnett produces makes me sad in this way. The Hobbit movies make me sad in this way. You can see perfection, you just can’t get there.
A bowler hat, a broken guitar string, and a jelly sandwich make me sad. I hope it’s just me.