Notes From A Big Heart – Or Perhaps Not

Sometimes people say of me that I have a big heart, and sometimes they don’t; I expect the same is true of you. The threshold for saying this to someone seems rather low. I mean, have I taken in orphans? I have not, and surely never will. I am quite nice to those who are nice to me, and contrariwise; I expect that is true of you too. But do not even the Gentiles and Publicans do that?

But in general, how do people judge the bigness of someone’s heart? I am very much afraid that in general it is not so much about taking in orphans as producing the right “feelings”, whatever they are. I say “producing”, as I simply do not accept the model of feelings being something entirely spontaneous and beyond our control. And I add the quote-marks because I do not know what people mean by the word “feelings”, suspect that they don’t either, and even less do I understand their sacrality.

All of human history – apart from us – has counselled the control of our emotions, not their magnification in a kind of gardening prize show. Are we really the first wise generation on the planet?

The only objective, knowable reality about other people is their actions, and because the action of taking in orphans is such a lot of trouble, they find it easier to win a reputation as having a big heart by performing actions that are conventionally taken as signifiers of some subjective, inner realm – but don’t actually prove anything. Faugh, I would rather be considered a heartless misanthrope. Wait, I already am…..

In the business of augmenting one’s self-esteem by having better emotions than one’s neighbour, a key concept is the having of “strong” emotions. For some reason this is held to be a Good Thing. But what does it actually mean? A person who has ‘strong’ emotions, do we mean that she acts towards others or one other with practical proofs of devotion? After all, we can see her actions, all else is propaganda. Or do we mean that her emotions are enduring – which may in turn mean that she maintains an inadvisable cathexis long after a saner person has run for the hills. Or it may mean that she persists in practical devotion long after others have started looking after Number One instead. Yet again, ‘strong’ emotions might describe a person who did whatever came into her head without calculating the consequences. Why this should be such a Good Thing as to command admiration and respect needs explaining. Finally, “strong” emotions might just mean a talent for expressing wishes in a theatrical manner, which is surely nothing more than a learned technique for getting one’s own way.

Posted on January 2, 2011 at 17:18 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, What Is This Thing Called Love?

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