Thursday, 9 April 2015


“The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea." - Isak Dinesen (KarenBlixen)

I was born in Greece and my family and I moved here to Australia when I was 10 years old. The political situation in Greece at that time was dominated by the rule of the “colonels”, a military junta that had overthrown the government and had plunged the country into an extreme right-wing totalitarian regime that was exceedingly oppressive and wasted no opportunity in eradicating all forms of ideological opposition. This extended to political parties, organisations, artistic and literary groups and of course to individuals. My parents were situated slightly to the left side of the centre (pink rather than red) in their political ideology. Our house in Athens was thus often full of artists, poets, musicians and actors who visited and regaled us with their latest work. At the time of the junta, many of these liberals and socialists were actively sought out and were exiled, imprisoned (or worse!) depending on their perceived threat to the military junta establishment. We managed to flee and to settle in Australia.

The first time I went back to Greece after living in Australia for 10 years or so, the country had returned to democratic rule and the climate was one of optimism with everyone still drunk with the heady wine of political and intellectual freedom. I was taken for a long drive by relatives and we ended up on top of a mountain, looking down onto a valley and far away to the sea. We had coffee at a café and as I gazed out into the distant azure depths of the sea, a few tears rolled down my eyes. It was all so beautiful: The return to the land of my birth, seeing relatives that I had not laid eyes on for a long time, the beauty of the landscape, the sounds of my mother tongue around me, and the sweeping vista in front of me where land, sea and sky seemed to conspire so as to make a picture of incomparable loveliness.

My companions looked at me and asked if everything was OK. I had to smile and eventually laughed. I said nothing was wrong, all was right, in fact! It was just that something had got into my eye and caused it to tear – I think that was indeed true, a little piece of the landscape in front me had entered into my heart through my eyes and caused me to become sentimental over the experience that I was living through. The beauty of nature that I beheld had become enmeshed with my feelings of nostalgia of the time of my childhood, the joy of seeing my relatives once again, the remembrances of happy times in the past, and the sense of “returning home”…

Yes, I was being sentimental, and was afraid of admitting it… This poor word “sentimental” has been much maligned in recent times and what once could be described as sentimental and raise fellow feelings of sympathy in others, is now more likely to be ridiculed in the person confessing such a weakness in their character. We are losing our innocence of experience as a culture in the West, I think, and what could be interpreted tenderly and with true feeling is often described as romantic nonsense and as living in the past. We have become so modern in our sensibilities…

sentimental |ˌsen(t)əˈmen(t)l|adjective
of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia: She felt a sentimental attachment to the place creep over her.
(of a work of literature, music, or art) dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way: A sentimental ballad.
(of a person) excessively prone to feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia: I’m a sentimental old fool.
sentimental value the value of something to someone because of personal or emotional associations rather than material worth.
sentimentally |ˈsɛn(t)əˌmɛn(t)li| adverb
ORIGIN late Middle English (in the senses [personal experience] and [physical feeling, sensation] ): from Old French sentement, from medieval Latin sentimentum, from Latin sentire ‘feel.’

If you are moved to tears by a situation that does not necessarily warrant such a response, you’re likely to be called sentimental, an adjective used to describe a willingness to get emotional at the slightest prompting (A sentimental man who kept his dog’s ashes in an urn on the mantel).

Effusive applies to excessive or insincere displays of emotion, although it may be used in an approving sense (Effusive in her gratitude for the help she had received).

Maudlin derives from the name Mary Magdalene, who was often shown with her eyes swollen from weeping. It implies a lack of self-restraint, particularly in the form of excessive tearfulness, often in the context of self-pity.

Mawkish carries sentimentality a step further, implying emotion so excessive that it provokes loathing or disgust (Mawkish attempts to win the audience over).

Although romantic at one time referred to an expression of deep feeling, nowadays it is often used disapprovingly to describe emotion that has little to do with the way things actually are and that is linked to an idealised vision of the way they should be (She had a romantic notion of what it meant to be a “starving artist”).

Mushy suggests both excessive emotion or sentimentality and a contempt for romantic love (A mushy love story).

Similarly, schmaltzy implies excessive sentimentality, a mushiness of feeling especially in music or movies.

I am sentimental. I have always been and always will be, I guess. Only now I am not afraid of confessing it! That would make me a sentimental old fool, according to some people, whereas I prefer to think of myself as a neo-romanticist… What about you? Are you sentimental?

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