Anne says, “There must be a word in German for it.” There probably is, but I don’t know it.
But it is something I have begun feeling, often, now that I am three-quarters of a century old — or in another way of looking at it, at a point where the fraction of life I’ve lived has a numerator quickly rising to equal the denominator.
I frequently go out my front door to watch the treetops wave in the breeze, to see the birds wheel in a sky filled with brilliant white cumulus clouds, bees and butterflies dip from flower to flower, the palette of multiple greens in the garden leaves leave almost a taste in my mouth, and I think it is all beautiful. Unutterably beautiful. I feel in love with the things of this world.
But I know, as my body tells me every morning, that I am coming to my own end, that even if I live a long life, there is still only the tail end of it remaining, and I feel a confusing sense both that I will miss all this so dearly when I am gone, and that when I’m gone, I won’t be around to miss anything.
And so, I am having a kind of premature sense of loss for what I have not yet lost, but know I will lose — and yet, know I will not miss it when I do, because I will be annihilated and will not exist to miss what I already know I must miss.
Do you get the paradox of all this? And this is what there must be some German compound-word for: the sadness of loss you know you would suffer if you could, but know you will not be able to. As Keats has it, “Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips bidding adieu.”
Perhaps Vorausschauendsehnsucht is the word I’m looking for. It is long, impressive and German. Whether it is or not, and whether it even exists outside my construction of it from parts, the emotion is very real for me.
It is said that humans are distinct from other animals in that they know they will die. And this awareness must make everything in our lives seem both fleeting and dear. For me, the closer I get to the great blackening halt, the dearer it all gets, and the faster it flies.
And so, I walk out the front door with no other purpose than to watch the treetops wave in the breeze, to see the birds wheel in a sky filled with brilliant white cumulus clouds, bees and butterflies dip from flower to flower, and enjoy the palette of multiple greens in the garden that leave almost a taste in my mouth. And I think it is all unutterably beautiful.