It’s time that we began. To laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again. – Leonard Cohen, ’So Long, Marianne’
People whose favourite songs are happy listen to them an average of 175 times. But those who prefer sad songs listen to them almost 800 times and report a deeper connection to the music than those who prefer happy songs. This is just one of the many insights that author Susan Cain shared when she came to Intelligence Squared to talk about her new book Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole.
Cain shot to fame in 2012 with her international bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, in which she urged society to cultivate space for the undervalued introverts among us. Now she argued that by embracing the bittersweet at the heart of life – the sense that joy and sorrow are always paired – we can gain a heightened appreciation of the wonder and beauty of the world and improve our creativity and connection. Pointing out the bittersweetness expressed in religion, art and music – from the longing for the Garden of Eden, Zion or Mecca, through the epic themes of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey and Star Wars, to the songs of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen – Cain showed how a bittersweet state of mind can help us transcend our personal and collective pain.
Cain explained how at this time of profound discord and personal anxiety, embracing both the light and the dark can bring us together in deep and unexpected ways.