There is something about the German language that makes it stand out amongst the other languages. It has some words that express our feelings and ideas so perfectly; so much so, it seems that there is a lexical gap in the other languages. Some German words just cannot be quite translated by just another word. One such word is Weltschmerz.
Weltschmerz comes from German Welt “world” and Schmerz “pain”. It means a universal pain, world-weariness, or melancholia about the state of the world. It is the sadness that is not because of some issue, but a feeling of depression because of existence itself. It is the feeling in which one realizes that the reality of world cannot fulfill the desire of one's heart. This term was coined by a romantic German author Jean Paul aka Johann Paul Friedrich Richter.
The contemporary meaning of Weltschmerz is the psychological distress of realizing that our frailties are the product of social, physical and circumstantial states of the world. The feeling of Weltschmerz may cause depression and may lead to social or mental withdrawal. Weltschmerz is the despair experienced when the world as it is does not line up with the world as we think it should be.
The word Weltschmerz, in my mind, always takes me back to Charles Darwin. I recently read his book, on the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life. That is the full name of the original book; I find it amusingly long and precise. The book is more popularly called Origin of Species. The book was brilliant and the ideas in it were strongly supported by evidence and reasoning. Many of the common questions of creationists in the debate panels with Richard Dawkins, were first handledly answered by Darwin in his book. Moreover, I found Darwin's knowledge of geology was far ahead his times, he more or less explained plate tectonics.
I, as a person living in 2017 with a world view on evolution as a given, cannot fathom the feeling of Weltschmerz that Darwin must have experience. Darwin traveled the globe in his youth. He was a naturalist on the HMS Beagle, a naval exploratory voyage around the world. He studied the geology and nature. He studied plants and animal life and collected fossils during his five-year-long voyage. After his voyage, he studied his finding on the theory of evolution. He didn't share his ideas with the world for twenty-one years. It was that time during which the world-weariness of preconceived idea of creation faced up to Darwin. Darwin was reportedly battling an undiagnosed sickness throughout his life. Nowadays, it is believed that Darwin's sickness was psychosomatic. He was raised a devoted Christian, during this time he was facing up the flaws in the creation idea and being accused of "killing the beloved God". This might have been the source of Darwin’s depression and Weltschmerz.
I think the life and experience of Darwin, even though he was brilliant and ingenious for the knowledge that he imparted us, was filled with the Weltschmerz. You may read more about Darwin and his Theory of Evolution here. The reality of life and the emotional leaning towards the desire of how we wished it should have been ... is heart-breaking.
If you wish to learn some more, awesome German words check here. Do you have a scenario that explains and represents the word Weltschmerz? Let me know in the comments section.
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