In defence of feelings

I firmly believe that art should be able to break you.

Art should have enough power over you that it’s totally possible for it to ruin your life a little bit. Every once in a while, you should experience something so intense that you feel terrible after it happens, because it allows you to discover something about yourself you might not have realized previously.

One of the greatest things about art is that it can provide a no-consequences trigger for you to have that experience. Recently, I saw something that got me thinking about how we relate to art as we age. It’s a YouTube video titled “Jackson crying at A Great Big World’s ‘Say Something’ feat. Christina Aguilera,” and it’s the single most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.

I’ve never heard the song “Say Something”. The small portion I heard in the video doesn’t stimulate any feelings within me aside from a slightly nagging desire to listen to something else. But here, a four-year-old child feels this song so intensely that he’s moved to tears, and somehow ― again, at the age of four ― has the emotional and intellectual wherewithal to know that he is going through something important.

So, when his dad repeatedly asks him if he’d rather listen to something else ― something, perhaps, less emotionally devastating for him ― he shakes his head and boldly continues to feel, dammit. I can respect that.

Do you know how rarely I break into full-on sobbing when a song comes on? I almost never do. Granted, I’m a 21-year-old man, but should I really let that stop me?

As we age, we get desensitized to everything, but especially to art and especially now. It has become so easily attainable for free and with little effort. We’ve made it disposable and, consequently, we’ve walled ourselves off from spontaneously connecting with it in any way that is meaningful. Who wants to open themselves up to something or somebody they don’t even value?

I’m not claiming to be the first person to make this observation ― it’s the year 2014, and I’m fully aware of that. Even the word “internet” sounds dated in 2014.

But this is why Jackson is amazing, and why I’m a little bit jealous of him ― comparatively new to this world, he’s yet to have his feelings spoiled. He doesn’t know that they’re no longer in vogue. He just heard a song one day and it moved him. So he cried.

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