by Hazel (’13)
We recently finished our Poetry through Jazz unit in Creative Writing II. It was a new approach in that it gave our writing a historical context, both in terms of subject matter and style. But the one thing that will really stick with me was something that Justin (our artist in residence) said on the last day. He invited us to thing about sentimentality and rationality. We’ve all been told, or perhaps told ourselves, to “stop being so emotional and just think rationally.” I’ve relied heavily on this approach to life, especially in recent years. I would banish emotion by placing it into ill-fitting, “rational” boxes. But here is the underlying issue that Justin brought to light: why is emotion fundamentally inferior to sentimentality? I think one would be hard-pressed to say that it is not viewed as such, at least not in the academic world (by which I do not solely mean schools, in case that was unclear). I view my own emotions with a certain contempt, subject them to scrutiny, and place them below essentially any “reasonable argument from anyone, no matter how unreasonable it may be.
I suppose my question is more of a “how” than a “why.” How did we end up here, thinking as we do? Can we find the roots of such thinking in the Enlightenment? Or is it older than that? Is it more prevalent nowadays, or is this simply the era in which I am alive and sentient? How is it affecting us, personally and societally? What would we be like without this bias? How would our thinking on a plethora of other subjects be altered if we did not hold it, if it had never existed?
Those are a few of my questions. Now here is my statement: let’s stop. Not entirely, of course; I’ve expressed my personal love and use of rationality. However, we should not discount our emotions simply because we have been taught that we are above them, that to feel is childish. To feel is not to be infantile, but rather to be mortal. We only have so much time, but there is enough both to feel and to reason. There is certainly not enough time, however, not to be honest with oneself.
ps. This was not just me building up to a yolo joke, I promise.