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The Cruelty of Emotions

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The Oxford Dictionary defines cruelty as  “cruel behaviour or attitudes”. At the same time, cruel is defined as “causing pain or suffering”.
Example: ‘the winters are long, hard, and cruel’

The Oxford Dictionary defines emotion as “a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”
Example: ‘How could she have let him do this to her, to affect her this way that she had no control over her own emotions?’

I think about the cruelty of emotions. Not of emotions related to pain or suffering, but rather about the very nature of emotions themselves, which are painful per se in virtue of their autonomy over one’s most conscious part of being.

In most cases, emotions are a consequence of uncontrollable factors. One doesn’t choose what to feel. One doesn’t choose one’s reactions.

I think about the cruelty of emotions. Not of emotions related to positive feelings, but rather about those that cause a greater painful impact on one’s being.

In that case, emotions can uncontrollably take over one’s body and mind. One doesn’t choose what to feel. One doesn’t choose their reaction. One doesn’t choose to suffer, yet one suffers.

“And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And . . .”

I think about those painful moments, and I think about what factors have intervened on causing them.

I think about those other moments, too, when experiencing a strong emotion have actually played in my own favour.

I can’t help but think about this difference as ruled by controllable vs. uncontrollable factors or contexts of experience.

I choose to engage in certain relations, activities and contexts, for my own sake. There are certain moments when I decide to take part in what I consider to be controllable activities, hoping to get out of them a positive experience, but it does not always happen to be the case.

Once again, I think about the cruelty of emotions. One doesn’t choose what to feel. One doesn’t choose one’s reaction.

In My Death and My Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Kathy Acker writes:

“And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And scape escape romance. And . . .”

I read that paragraph—which contains the sentence “And scape escape romance.” five times—five more times. I read “And scape escape romance.” a total of twenty-five times before taking a picture of the page and posting it on my Instagram story because that sentence takes over my whole body but I don’t know how to deal with it, so posting it on Instagram seems my best shot at attempting to normalise the situation. Or so I hope. I am still confused. I want to understand but I don’t know what I need to understand. I can only let my body be overpowered by a feeling of nostalgia and melancholy that surely won’t go away for some time.

In Richard Yates, Tao Lin writes:

“In Florida Haley Joel Osment drove his mother’s Honda CRV almost every day to Whole Food using her credit card to buy things to eat or mail to Dakota Fanning. He replaced some of his mother’s things with organic versions of the same thing. He made three to five smoothies a day and recorded himself playing piano and drums and mailed a CD of it and some DVDs he liked to Dakota Fanning. He recorded drums over a Chopin étude. He recorded twenty-two-minute drum solo for Dakota Fanning to listen to while exercising. (…) During the two months Haley Joel Osment was in Florida he visited Dakota Fanning twice.”

Haley Joel Osment thinks he is in love with Dakota Fanning.

Dakota Fanning thinks she is love with Haley Joel Osment.

Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning are most definitely depressed.

I read the whole passage a couple of times. Is it because they think they are in love but they are really not, because they exist in the context of an abusive relationship, or because they are depressed that this particular passage makes me feel what I categorise as sadness? Do I identify with them at some level? Do I feel I should empathise with them but I don’t? I stare at the wall in front of me. Again, different emotions are taking over my body, emotions rather obscure yet intense – not the kind of emotions I felt when I first opened the book. The feelings of loneliness and discomfort are all over the place.

On July 20th, 1962, Sylvia Plath writes Poppies in July.

On October 23rd, 1961, Sylvia Plath writes Mirror.

On October 24th, 1962, Sylvia Plath writes Cut.

On October 23rd-29th, 1962, Sylvia Plath writes Lady Lazarus.

On February 5th, 1963, Sylvia Plath writes Edge.

I think about how cursed we are to feel as much as we do, how it feels when we seek pain in words for a greater (unknown) cause.

I can’t read more than 10 Sylvia Plath’s poems in a row because my mood shifts dramatically. I become less, I cry, I go back to bed, and I want to hide under the blankets for what it feels like it is going to last forever. I don’t eat, I might sleep, I will cry and cry. I don’t understand but I do understand, I understand too well. I don’t want to be consumed by who she is, what she writes, who I am, what I read. Do I identify too much? Do I empathise too little compared to how much I would want to? Does she write in a way no one has ever written before? Does she talk to me in a way no one has ever done before? Is it beauty underneath the words that her poems hide? Are her poems provoking such reactions in my being that they cannot be put into a better place nor externalised in a more positive manner, that the only solution left is to burst into tears?

On March 28th 1961, Sylvia Plath writes I am Vertical:

“But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them —
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.”

I begin to cry, but this time I try to understand why I cry. I might be crying because those words are so beautiful, powerful, well-chosen, I can’t cope with all the emotions they awake in me. I don’t know what to do, but I do know it hurts too much to keep it just for myself – I need to share it, so I send the poem to the person I like.

I pause and try to understand why have I done that.

I like that person; I care about him, I want him to be happy. I think I wouldn’t be at peace with myself if he would become sad because of me, because of that poem, yet I need to share it with him.

I think about the conversation we had last week while eating pasta, in a controlled environment, probably inches away from entering a state of bliss. We talked about books, about pain, about connecting with strong emotions buried in a text, and how can that be difficult for some people. I think about how cursed we are to feel as much as we do, how it feels when we seek pain in words for a greater (unknown) cause.

In I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together, Mira Gonzalez wrote the poem symbolic interactionism:

“people walk from one destination to another
with looks of determination on their faces
they stare at me
and they say “where the fuck are you going”
I say “I am going to a place”
they say “fuck you”
and I have an intense feeling of being a pathetic asshole
and that feeling manifests itself in the form of frantic unrestrained
Movement

I begin to realise that my face will never be inside of your face
and that we can silently communicate using a series of microscopic
gestures

and we will understand that the phrase “alone together” is not an
oxymoron anymore

and I will resolve to never be happy enough to forgive you

and I promise that from now on I will only have emotions that can be
perceived as neutral

I wonder how it is possible that there are billions of people in the world
yet I am the only person on the planet.”

In 2 weeks ago I was looking for drugs at a party, Mira writes

“ […]
I want to have an emotion that feels like being slowly punched in the
face for 3 years.”

I can read I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together by Mira Gonzalez in almost one go because it is short and reading it doesn’t make me cry and I don’t need to go back to bed, but I think I understand, I feel Mira Gonzalez. I get anxious, and I feel I need to take a break because otherwise the idea that I will never be happy enough to forget him becomes my reality, and I start to look for an emotion that feels like being slowly punched in the face for 3 years, those same 3 years I’ve been promising myself that I would only have emotions that can be perceived as neutral because of all this, because of all this pain, yet here I am reading, thinking, experiencing, letting be eaten by everything but those emotions I can control.

Photo credit: Irene Martinez Luna

Neus spends most of her time thinking about Sylvia Plath in general, Jon Krakauer’s adventures in particular, and why My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is so good. She once read Infinite Jest, but the only thing she seems to have gained from it is a hopeless crush on Hal Incandenza. She has an MA in Cognition and Communication, which she still doesn’t understand what was really about.

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