top of page

Bittersweet Satisfaction -- Settlement with The Inevitable -- A Unique Emotion? Contemplations on "Setsunai"

Updated: Jul 14

A young man watching over the sea

(September 2023 note: I am no longer handicapped. I explained why in this article).

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Summary

Expressions of feelings are not universally felt and recognized. Setsunai is a Japanese term without an equivalent translation in English, which the author describes as a mix of satisfaction and melancholy. He experienced that feeling as a boy, but people around him failed to understand it, leaving him lonely and sad.
Emotions are multilayered; some feelings can be unfamiliar, and not everybody is equally aware of them. People judge others too quickly. The author taught himself to explore people regardless of how others perceive them.
By contemplating the nature of human emotions, he found chronic melancholy in himself. The author predicted his solitary future at a young age. In his 20s, he isolated himself from society, being misunderstood and abandoned by Chen.
He wants his articles to be read, work, and be left alone. You can reach the peak of success and accept it with peace, but you can also be profoundly lonely.
Your success is not celebrated because others might not bother to know you in-depth, even though you might be their friend, partner, or child. If you choose to be a philosopher, prepare for a lonely life and confrontation with truth. Don't escape your sorrows and joys; subjugate them.

The El-Eal Enigma

It was within the imposing walls of El-Eal fortress, the final frontier of Suikoden IV, that I encountered a peculiar emotion. It wasn't a feeling I could readily classify. It was a strange mix of satisfaction and melancholy that lingered long after I finished the game once more.

Young and naive, I assumed this was a universal experience. But venturing out into the real world, particularly Israeli society, an extroverted country, I found myself misunderstood. The nuance of this feeling seemed lost in translation, and the reality I perceived, so I began understanding, was too unique to be comprehensible by most. At the very least, on the surface level...

This experience sparked a realization: Emotions are shaped by the language we possess and the cultural influences that surround us. Perhaps, without the "emotional lexicon" extracted from that game and my knowledge of English itself, this bittersweet satisfaction would have remained even less known.

The term might be known as Setsunai. According to the CotoAcademy blog:

Setsunai is a Japanese word that doesn’t have an exact English translation, but it roughly translates to “the pain of things” or even “sweet sorrow”. It’s derived from the kanji 切 (setsu), which means “to cut”. It’s a mix of happiness and vague sadness, nostalgia or longing for someone or something that you can’t have, or even something that you can’t quite put your finger on or never experienced. The feeling is often brought on by external triggers like looking at old photos or hearing a song from your childhood.

That aloof, rocky fortress by the shore, resonated deeply even the first time I invaded it, as a child. In it, something about myself came to partial realization, in the form of setsunai. I didn't even know I could feel such emotion... Do you?

And so, I only began to understand testament the complexity of human experience. I came to realize that several emotions can exist and be felt at the same time, and that we have different degrees of awareness towards each emotion. There are emotions we are more familiar with, while other emotions might not only be unknown, but feared. In other words, we can even have a mixture of feelings towards feelings, whether or not the subjected feelings are currently felt as well.

These layers upon layers of emotions, and the different relations they have towards each other, deep inside of us, was something mostly I was aware of in my younger years. Others failed understanding it. I am not proud in this apparent rarity, but lonely and sad. I am a philosopher because I want others to understand too, so their sphere of understanding would grow, as well as their perception of reality, as multifacated.

People judge others so quickly... With games such as this I tought myself to explore people as if they were castle and fortresses. Much of suffering stems from short-term thinking. But how can you fully reap the rewards of a fortress or dungeon if you don't explore as much as you can before you need to go? That is how I treat people deep inside of me, no matter how much otherwise they think. They are free to delude themselves.

The halls of El-Eal were eerily empty, echoing with a hollow finality. Gone was the expected idea of a central hub of evil. Instead, it was mainly empty. No grandiose monsters on every corner, no dangerous traps, no dramatic music singing of a final assault.

Aside from regular enemy soldiers, archers and captains, there was mainly just emptiness, sinking with unsettling sense of something lurking beneath the surface. An enigmatic theme that was never properly explained, might serve as the reason for this fortress so grey, dim-lighted, and melancholic.

This unsettling mix of emptiness and satisfaction has haunted me ever since I was introduced to this final area. By contemplating it, I unlocked not only the complex nature of human emotion, but also a chronic tide of melancholy within me, following me no matter where I am, and who I am with.

A Life Defined by Detachment

An unsettling intuition chewed at the back of my mind throughout my youth. It whispered an omen: That my 20s would mark in the "beginning of the end," a life defined by a stagnant stillness. Not externally, but within. The constant news of war in my country, the relentless act of moving from place to place like a nomad, never managed to crack the core of my being.

It left a crack in the psyche of many. I remained silent. I remained strangely unaffected by the emotional tides that swayed those around me. This hollow emptiness inside of me, were similar the empty halls of the virtual El-Eal fortress – grand in scale, yet devoid of much emotion. And it was in 2014 that I knew my pains are not shared, so I closed the gate to the pains of others.

Chen's abandonment on Valentine's Day, 2014, became a cruel validation of my omen. It felt like a confirmation of my inherent lack of "expectations," as though life itself compelled me to withdraw towards a solitary existence, both physically and mentally. Today, being "handicapped" by several disabilities, I don't see much point in being part of society, not the local one, not the international one.

I want to be read, and to be left alone by most people. Understanding me competently requires the reading of many of my articles. And I'm not going to lecture to people about myself. I prefer to be lonely, than be reminded of me being severely misunderstood as a person. I don't care anymore. I have work to tend to. Feel free to comment and to contribute, but don't assume, after a length of time, that we're friends. My mind is isolated like a fortress. It contains, well, few people.

Chen was my opposite, thrives on external validation, seeking excitement across the globe. Beyond survival, the very act of venturing outside feels fruitless and devoid to me. Pollution and noise, these are, along with stress, what my mind translates to physical pain.

For years, I held onto the fantasy of a hermit's life. Now, it has become a welcomed reality. Social interaction holds little appeal; the chronic stress I feel deeply in others manifests as a physical burden for me. The effort of explanation seems futile, but altough I am like a distant fortress, I feel people well. And because they may deny the truth of their own emotion, I see no reason to explain the intensity in which they often repress. We, the philosophers, stare the truth down to the eye, with little to no grains of escapism.

People tend to hate each other so much over so little. I've no desire to partake in their grandiose delusions of futility. I desire peace for work's sake, so I fortify myself in blessed solitude.

Perhaps my intuition wasn't just an omen, but a self-fulfilling, symbolic prophecy. It shaped a vision that ultimately became my inescapable reality. In a way, it's the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy – a life on my own terms, devoid of strong emotions. It's neither happiness nor sadness exclusively, but a acceptance and tiredness.

The path may have diverged, but for me, it always led here. Here, where the influences of life, and my own neurodivergency, obliged me to be. In voluntary isolation. Not negative or positive. Voluntary. For I must work on Philosocom, and to do that, I only have a full room for one, in me.

The Lonely Summit

There's a feeling, a quiet hum of accomplishment that resonates within some of us. It's the satisfaction of reaching a silent summit, a point where the climb ceases to exist, where the peak of success has been conquered. If it indeed exists in your heart, it'll whisper, "There's nowhere left to go. Here, you've arrived. Accept it, and peace awaits."

But there is no triumphant fanfare of conquering that mountaintop. Not necessarily people to cheer you, to congratulate you. Whether or not people would explore you, many of them would settle on a vision of you they have in their minds, and not bother to explore further. A shared reality can never be a universal one, as long as all minds, regardless of their complexity, have been explored enough. Otherwise, feel free to believe that there is a common perception among all/most beings in a society. That is, even though you've yet to properly search their internal world, and internalize it like I internalized El-Eal.

And should there be such celebrations of peak-reaching, before a person's mind has been properly explored, remember that it might be vain. Vain, as you celebrate something with a person you merely think you know enough. A friend, a partner, or even your own child. Fall into the delusion of knowledge, and you will be like a governor who just got overthrown by "an ally" -- thinking you had your seat of knowledge all along.

You just might not be aware, of how lonely you perhaps are. I simply refused denying any ounce of discomfort in my way of the truth. So I know my aches well. You can too, although it's a sorrowful sacrifice.

If you'll choose to be a philosopher more regularly, prepare for a lonelier reality, formerly fogged by the desire to escape its final confrontation.

Choose to be not satisfied, to the point of granted, and you can achieve much, despite the loneliness.

Don't escape your sorrows and your joys.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Feedback

"Setsunai" is a conflicted mixture of sadness, fulfillment, nostalgia, and sometimes a reminiscence of love. It's a feeling when we achieve closure, say goodbyes, and reach the inevitable end of a game, a book, or a love story. It's a fortress we conquered, and when we enter victorious, we only find the torturous void of loneliness within us.
Then, we move on to the subsequent chase and the next quest. Yet, the promised treasure of happiness is nowhere to be found, and at every finish line, only "setsunai" awaits us.
Yet, we smile through the tears because what's the point of showing our disappointment as we are expected to be happily accomplished? Who will understand the persistent emptiness within us?
At this stage of my life, I know "setsunai," the bittersweet aftertaste of fleeing achievement and the desperate emptiness of life's purposelessness.
I'm determined to find a way to pursue my utopic dreams until my conscious mind ceases to exist and my passionate heart stops beating.
We can't prevent our bodies from aging. However, we can keep our minds childlike, filled with wonder and energy, eager to embark on the ultimate journeys not to satisfy society but for ourselves, and to keep striving for more without an end, without "setsunai."

64 views0 comments


Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

bottom of page