Not knowing what to feel or if I understand
The young man imagines the death of the Lady- well, she said she was one about to reach her journey’s end- and wonders should I have the right to smile?
What to feel. There is a right feeling, which the decent person should feel. Grief, obviously, at a death, perhaps love or admiration, perhaps gratitude for friendship and appreciation of a human being. Or perhaps revulsion- I shall sit here, serving tea to friends- at a life wasted in odds and ends. And pleasure at a lucky escape.
I have just heard Portrait of a Lady, read by Jeremy Irons– recording available till the end of the month- and it moved me, when it had passed me by in my teens when I found Eliot. I don’t know- it was cruel and pointless in its portrait of her, I did not know what to make of that narrator, I tussled with four quartets and found the thought of being consumed by either fire or fire exciting rather than terrifying or despondency-inducing. “Only Live”- what a calling! The calling was not yet impossible.
Where was I? Oh yes, “What to feel”. I may come back to Meaning of Life stuff- would I write sensible, continuous prose, or odds and ends?- but first I wanted to say
feel what you feel. It is the Only Way.
Feeling denied or suppressed sets up intolerable unmanageable revolt within you. It will not be denied, but erupts, in violence against others or self, smashing things or tearing at your hair.
Ha. Only the slightest pause before I typed “intolerable”- the inner voice still says, you could have managed if you had minimal abilities and I give it the slightest credence, then reject it.
The sadness is not that intolerable shirt of flame, even if it feels like it when it is there. Am I bargaining again? I feel the pain of sadness with the purpose of not showing it, not needing to express it. I want not to express it, and having failed to suppress it, perhaps feeling it authentically deeply, draining the cup to the dregs will be a useful technique not to express it.
Should you seek sympathy, anyway? It is all so much work. I meet a friend and all our time is spent expressing feeling and sympathising, unless it is sadness where one should pull onesself together. I don’t know, by the way. I start typing a sentence and its meaning forces me into considering its opposite. Perhaps Chopin’s soul, resurrected among friends would mean we would not have to speak, only understand together.
Bring all the feeling to consciousness!
Aha! I have an answer, a guiding light, a solution, a rule, which may be more valuable in contemplating than in practising it.
I could feel all my feelings then move on, my actions rationally chosen and effectual, responding not reacting, doing the right thing. One more way to avoid mistakes.
Avoid mistakes! I can learn, I get better at this stuff was the phrase which entered my mind, by which I mean living but not as good as I desperately want to be.
The young man at the Lady’s death might not feel what he ought to feel, but a cacophony of conflicting feelings, many of them mean and unpleasing to him. He really is that mean person. I am my shadow. I am a human being. I am beautiful! was an answer to this- I must admire and delight in the shadow-parts, the bits I do not like, because they are real- yet should I also bear the roiling change of it, confusing me, always behind it? If I only had a chance to contemplate, accept, move on, but I never have time-
Is he really better than she is?
That’s all, that’s all, that’s all. that’s all,
Birth, and copulation, and death.
Good night sweet ladies