"I'm saying that it's more than all right to descend into introspective gloom. In fact, it is crucial, a call to what might be the best portion of ourselves, those depths where the most lasting truths lie."
At first blush I thought, "Ah, yes, we must 'feel' all round." That is, we mustn't be so insular that we allow only preordained thoughts to touch us, and not allow our person to be buffeted by all winds, even those that are foul. However, the highlighted tenet above I believe to be incomplete. If we, North Americans, were a conglomeration of melancholy people, then some academic might well write a book in praise of joyfulness...perspective being everything. He is denying joy in order to further the premise that sadness is to be more valued than happiness. Doesn't that sound as superficial as the notion he is trying to devalue, the notion of being happy? Perhaps he is talking about emotional blandness, where a trip to the mall and a neatly trimmed lawn is as edifying as people wish to feel; and I'm sure a case could be made against such mundane living. However, in the final paragraph which I have quoted, he puts forth his belief that the best portion of ourselves is our "introspective gloom," which seems to indicate that he is disinclined toward joy and its ability to teach us anything of value.
But does the American addiction to happiness make any sense, especially in light of the poverty, ecological disaster and war that now haunt the globe, daily annihilating hundreds if not thousands? Isn't it, in fact, a recipe for delusion?
Are people addicted to happiness, or is it a lack of connection to self, in every way, that leads us to create such havoc? I actually think it IS the misery that people are so ensconced in, which allows such awfulness. The one-dimensional, saccharine happiness he speaks of is but a sad reflection of the gloom we are already feeling. We buy things; we wreck our planet precisely because we are so wrapped up in our own melancholy. The society of Keats was a different one, where people still felt a connectedness to the natural world, and hence, his melancholia wasn't fixated upon his navel, but allowed his ears to open to the nightingale, or lack thereof.
I believe it is the contrary notion that is true, that is in fact joy that opens us up, and from that it allows for real sadness to go deeper too. If it is "happiness" that he finds superficial, then that is just the flip side of the "misery" that he seeks to promulgate. Misery can not open us up to joy, but joy can, and does, reveal great sorrow. It is from this emotional make-up that the human experience becomes rich, indeed.