29 January 2011

Cynicism and Sentimentality

Can we measure the arc of our lives by where we are in the continuum between cynicism and sentimentality?

Take the tune Mona Lisa. Many musicians have covered the tune, from Nat King Cole to Bruddah Iz.

I'm partial to Mona Lisa covers performed by Tony Bennett and Willie Nelson.

Willie Nelson's rendition is particularly plaintive, expressing of poetic sort of melancholy only appreciated at some threshold of aggregated experiences.

There was a time I would have thought any rendition of Mona Lisa was insipid, pop schlock. Now I dig crooner tunes - the mellifluous voices and the poetry of romantic lyrics.

There's a romantic pop tune sung by Tony Bennett called You're All the World to Me. How do the lyrics in a song like You're All the World to Me go from romantic schlock to profundity as we age? It is because the expression of poetic melancholy is only gradually understood over the landscape of a lifetime.

An early dawn back in my 50th year, I was listening to Bennett's You're All the World to Me driving by our local golf course. The profound melancholy I felt, that I wouldn't have felt in my virile twenties, inspired this poem about the love of my life:

Something Ordinary
Saint Paul, 21 April 2007
to Cindy
You're like Paris in April and May
You're New York on a silvery day.
A Swiss Alp as the sun grows fainter,
You're Loch Lomond when autumn is the painter.
~ from You’re all the World to Me, sung by Tony Bennett

On the moonless day break of late winter
Snow is a sand trap on the municipal back nine
We’re awakened by contradictions in darkness
Roused to light that defies description

This must be the hour when painters paint
But if our passions have already been painted
Stay with me to find something so ordinary
no one will bother to sing a song

When does a line like "A Swiss Alp as the sun grows fainter" cease being a cliche? It's in the next line "You're Loch Lomond when autumn is the painter".

I remain cynical about things, but I feel swells of sentimentality washing over much of my cynicism.

Does critical thinking methodically degrade to sentimental mush, or does understanding aggregated over a lifetime simply change our frame of reference?

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