08 July 2011

Angst, Ennui, and the Wanderlust

In Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat Pray Love, she has a conversation with friends where they ask each other if you were a word, what word would you be? I read the book last year, but that question popped into my head today. Maybe I have too much time on my hands, I came up with three words (in alphabetical order):

angst. n. a feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity.

When I say angst, I don't mean your typical punk rock teenage angst/melancholiness. I'm thinking more along the lines of Soren Kierkegaard and Franz Kafka. I'm thinking more along the lines of fearing failure and being frustrated by conflict between your responsibility to yourself, your principles, others, and God. I'm thinking Shostakovich. Mahler. Berg. Woody Guthrie. Bob Dylan.

ennui. n. a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction; boredom.

I first learned this word when studying the late 19th century/Victorian England/fin de siecle Europe. It popped up again in during the aftermath of World War One and the 1920s. I don't know what it is, but it generally describes me. I always want something more. I think mathematician and inventor Blaise Pascal sums it up best, "we seek rest in a struggle against some obstacles. And when we have overcome these, rest proves unbearable because of the boredom it produces", and that ""only an infinite and immutable object – that is, God himself – can fill this infinite abyss."

wanderlust. n. a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.

This might be my favorite word in the English language. Actually, we borrowed it from German Romanticism, so maybe that's why I like it. I definitely have a serious case of the wanderlust. I may have lived in the same town for my entire life, but there's nothing I would rather do than travel. I wish I could be a vagabond. I wish I could channel my inner Amelia Earhart and take off. Right now. With nothing but the clothes on my back and some money in my pocket. I want to see the world...all of it. Greece, Morocco, Italy, and Vietnam are tops on my list right now.

Elizabeth Gilbert's word may have been attraversiamo, or "let's cross over" in Italian, but those are my three words. Maybe one day I'll narrow it down.

What's your word?

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