Monday, June 28, 2010

Art-felt Emotion

Barbara: I think lots of people are moved by beauty and art, by things joyful and positive, but I am often embarrassed—and a bit flummoxed––by my overwhelming emotion in certain situations. 

My daughters spent several years in dance classes and there was always an elaborate recital at the end of each year. The recitals were staged in an impressively pro theatre that required endless rehearsals and small fortunes in advance for the costumes. And the frickin’ thing would last 3 ½ HOURS! Each year, I would brace myself for the recital’s endless eternity of children, young and old, shimmying, arabesquing, and tapping their little hearts out, knowing only 3, maybe 5, minutes of those long hours would be occupied by my own progeny in all their glory. Well, dammit, if I didn’t weep—WEEP—for the entire 3 ½ hours! I don’t know what it is about my psyche that would get so verclempt at seeing these young performers who were, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers. 

But I’m beginning to realize that it’s not just the sweetness of talent (or lack thereof) in youth that moves me. I think there’s another—maybe weirder––incarnation of the soul at work here. Because the thing is: I get weepy at ANY display of communion between people—no matter what the cause. 

I remember when I was a kid and my family was driving somewhere for Easter. As I looked around at all the other cars on the road, I got teary because I suddenly realized that all those other people KNEW it was Easter and that in some way we were “celebrating” together. And this event called Easter was bonding us for a brief moment (yeah, yeah, I was young, little did I know that not everyone celebrated it, or even cared, but my adult self can still argue that a high percentage of those other carfuls at least UNDERSTOOD it was Easter, and so we were still in some sort of legitimate communion.). 

To bring my point even further down the rabbit hole–– the other day, I got emotional when I was driving through the city and had to pass a motorcade of police cars. It was just one of the many friggin’ G20 security rehearsals (don’t get me started), but suddenly I found my emotion (so completely despite myself) stirring and welling inside me. Get this—because an assortment of human beings had pulled together and was working in communion for some kind of good. Like a ballet of service vehicles. 

Every year, Deb and I attend Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, which is an all-night art exhibit spread throughout the city—and a million people attend! We wander through the hundreds of installations in awe of the artists, but also in awe of our fundamental connection to a million other people who are also there to appreciate, celebrate, and bond. Do we weep? You betcha. But privately, not daring to admit it even to each other. 

My sister founded and runs (with her partner) the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival which takes place over 3-4 days the first weekend of every June. Because I adore modern dance, I drive down to Guelph (about 45 minutes west of Toronto) and immerse myself in the many inspiring performances. There are free shows in the park and several shows in the local theatre. The dancers are uniformly impressive and amazing. So, of course, there they are again: those friggin’ tears. Watching these dancers dance from the heart kills me, especially because they need to communicate something essential to us through their bodies beyond just the loveliness of movement and music. And then there’s further emotion because I’m sharing that vision with hundreds of strangers, each of us experiencing something special, each of us moved for our own reasons. 

So, maybe the tears feel weird in the moment—I wipe them away as subtly as I can––but I’m realizing now that, yes, it is an art-felt emotion, but it also the human bond. The particular bond that makes us human and keeps us humanely connected. Heartfelt.

Deb: Oh yes, Barb, this resonates with me as well. When I was younger I thought of myself as an “eventist”, someone who liked sharing emotional and stirring events with other people. The moon landing, the Summit series, a meteor shower. But there is nothing in the world like being moved by art and feeling those around you sharing your feelings. 

My family just got home from Toy Story 3. It might not be the ballet but it killed me with its perfect beauty. I have had a tough week and felt sure that I had no tears left for at least another year, but darned if I did not muster up a bucketful at this movie. I love crying for beauty. It makes up wonderfully for all the times we cry for sorrow, doesn’t it? 

Oh and P.S. while I am writing this, the thunder and lightening is cracking in the sky! 

Barbara: Wasn’t that the most stirring storm? Nothing scary (unless you’re a dog), just lovely cracking and pouring, indeed! You see, we just shared that storm together—beauty. 

And I love “eventist”. 

PS: If you’re interested, click here to see a beautiful photo-video of my sister’s festival (that’s her voice at the beginning and end).


  1. For me, it's live music that can bring me to tears. There's something about that artistic connection, the artist performing the song live for the audience and being in the actual moment of the music. There's a sense too of knowing that a concert is a form of art that will never be duplicated exactly that makes the art even more moving.

  2. Oh yes Joanne, YES! Music even just recorded can reduce me to puddles! My friend and I went to see Barbara Streisand and I was so spent from crying I wanted to go home at intermission. Didn't though. I have cried my way from Prince to Annie Lennox to the synphony. I think I am the only person I know who cried at a Meatloaf concert.

  3. For me some books make me teary eyed. I don't know why but when I read some of them they tend to make me cry. I don't know if it is because of the connection between the characters or if it's because that some of the books that I read really can relate to my life, or an event that is going on in my life. I love to read,but a lot of times I get so teary eyed from a book that I have to just put it down for a little bit and just relax and stop crying. Sometimes it's a good thing to have a good cry instead of a bad one.

  4. Goosebumps and exultant tears for me when listening to/being a part of (or even just hear a recording of!) the audience at a concert singing along. There's something ESPECIALLY potent if it's a capella. For example, the audience singalong on a recording of Tom Petty doing Free Fallin live always gets me.

    The last time I felt this was standing in the middle of 40 or 50 people of all ages little child to stooped over old, 3 races (black, white, and Hispanic), Protestant and Catholic, male and female, from various different churches in the local ministerial alliance while singing a hymn a capella at a ceremony on the courthouse lawn after this year's pro-life march. Many, like me, had singing voices not worth squat. But, all together, they became something beautiful. I dropped my voice out for while, closed my eyes, and listened to what was swirling around me while feeling my arms and the back of my neck tingle.

    OH, my example that epitomizes the phenomenon you are describing is that I cannot be part of a Hallelujah chorus audience stand up and singalong during a performance of The Messiah at Christmastime without tearing up. Being a part of the Hallelujah chorus is rapture for me. It's been years since I've been to one of those. Maybe I can find one down in the city this winter.

    DEB - I am so sorry you've struggled through a hard, tearful week. If I were there, I'd bring you cupcakes, a limitless supply of hugs, a big bottle of bubblebath and some good music to listen to while you soak in the tub, and two handfuls of Haley Mills and Doris Day DVD's. *very gentle but thorough and cuddly hug*

  5. Sorry for the double commenting, but I found this via the Nerdist twitter feed shortly after reading your blog for the day. Here is a GREAT example!

    Geeks max out eventist bliss:

    I completely agree with the sentiment Hardwick typed under the embed.

  6. teehee--TOTALLY me. But then I like to just give in to emotion. I cry at commercials, for pete's sake. I am frequently moved though, by shared experience... all the cars pulling over so an ambulance can pass and possibly save a life. Weepy Cancers getting caught in the tide of shared experience... (and maybe liking those emotions just a little too much.) I'm not ever moved that way by... you know... art you look at, if I'm alone... it is the crowd thing or else majestic nature that can do it.

  7. Oh yeah, Tart -- people moving for ambulances and firetrucks, way up on my tear-list. And, yes, Deb and I are both Cancers, so...

    Rigel -- no apologies for the double-post: you are welcome to post dozens of times, especially with manna like that. Your reach out to Deb was beautiful -- especially when you seem to be needing a hot bubble bath, dark chocolate, and red wine (or fill in blanks) yourself. I send you those and a reciprocal fuzzy hug!!

    Oh -- and the video you linked? Okay: friggin' nerdtastic nerdgasm.

  8. Awww, thanks Barbara. I did treat myself to a trip to the library to check out a good stack of books this afternoon. I was tickled pink to find out the library's just gotten in a brand new book of funky crochet patterns. I'm the first to check it out! Also, late last night I just had to get out of the house so I went up the grocery store (that has a good magazine rack) that's close by to kill the last hour till kiddo came home. I bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in several weeks, and he gave me a big, both arms, full body, rib cracking, snuggly bearhug which helped immensely. Plus, it's almost impossible to hang out with this person for a few minutes and not end up grinning and chuckling. It was nice to see him doing well because a few months ago I was one of a small group of people walking with him through his dark night of the soul.

    Anyway, the thing is, if I were there, I could tend to Deb without it costing money. I have The Trouble With Angels (one of my favorite movies EVER) on DVD that she could borrow for free. And, I could use her laptop to access some of my online accounts and stream other Haley Mills and Doris Day movies for her for free. I have baking ingredients in my kitchen cabinets and could whip her up some sweet, high calorie goodness without spending anything. I have an unused bottle of bubble bath in my bathroom cabinet that I would give to her instead of using it for myself. And, I'm a total hugslut. I never run out of hugs! I could grab a crochet hook and a skein from my yarn stash and whip her up an amigurumi stuffed animal in an hour or two to give her a new something fluffy to cuddle. I can love on people even without money. It just takes a little time and creativity which are easy to conjure up when I care about someone. But, seriously, it gutted me to read that she's had a hard, tearful week. My MamaBear instincts kick in, ya know?

    Back on the subject of your blog entry (LOL!!!): A long while back, a really terrible, dangerous storm went through Memphis (since dubbed Hurricane Elvis) and did millions of dollars of damage (an hour south of me). What teared me up when watching the news reports come in was when I saw the following footage: A policeman was standing in the miserable rain directing traffic at a really bothersome major intersection because the traffic light was out. Traffic was backed up, tempers were fraying, lots of roads were blocked by debris or flooded, and people were super stressed. As he motioned for one of the cars to come on through the intersection, the car slowed down beside him, the window came down, and the driver handed an umbrella out the window to the cop and then just drove off. That's one of the simplest, most beautiful spontaneous acts of kindness between strangers that I can remember ever witnessing.

    Another group uniting event that always gives me warm fuzzies is when someone's car has broken down in the road, and a bunch of total strangers (instead of just passing by in the other lane) pull over, park their cars, and come together to help push the broken down car to a safe spot.

    There's a snarky t-shirt I really want that says, "Losing faith in humanity one person at a time." But, sometimes, people surprise me with goodness.

  9. I loooooove the umbrella story, Rigel! And the one where you mama-bear Deb. Too sweet.

    I am a glass-half-full gal, so my t-shirt would read "Gaining faith in humanity one person at a time." And it would be true.

  10. Yep, I'm right there with you. It doesn't take much to make me cry. I always make sure I carry tissue with me. I use to teach dance and cry when my students danced. My other half is a musician, so I cry at good songs. By the way how can you not tear up when Meatloaf sings "Two out of Three ain't Bad". Boy he can really poor on the emotion cant he. Hallmark commercials...I fill buckets. Quite a few of my books have tear stains in parts of them. Sounds like between all of us we could end drought in the world.

  11. Omigosh, I just thought of a BIG one:

    A Charlie Brown Christmas

    I bawl my way through that cartoon everytime! The scraggedly Christmas tree! Linus's nativity story! The singing! OH, it pushes all my mushy, weepy buttons!

    *sniffle* *lump in throat* "I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love." *sniffle*

  12. Double posting again. Sorry. *waits for the smiting*

    But, we've gotta have an emotional 80's moment!

    Nobody puts Baby in the corner.
    (I dare y'all not to sing along!)

    Oh, and cinema sobfest? Two words: Steel Magnolias. Saw it with friends on my 16th birthday when it was first out in the theater. We filled a large popcorn tub with sniffled up Kleenexes.

    I'll scurry away quietly, now. *hides behind stack of library books*

  13. Deb - I saw Toy Story 3 when it came out and had predetermined that no matter what happened I was not going to cry...I failed. Both my friend and I were sitting there in tears at the end. It made me go home and hug the teddy bear I've had since the day I was born, and swear once again that I'm never going to give him up. Sorry you're having a rough week. I hope it gets better quickly! -Sending hugs your way as well!-

    I'm the same way about finding connectedness in things, particularly in music. I tear up every time I hear certain songs, which is inconvient when I'm in the band supposedly playing...My favorite thing is playing the Star Spangeled Banner and slowly the audience joins in until by the end everyone is singing. There's just something about those kinds of moments that touches my heart.

  14. And why did I ever feel I was the only person in the world dumb enough to cry through school concerts. Tears that move me, not ones that sadden ne.

  15. *peeks up over the cover of the library book*

    Rayna - I choke up every year during my son's elementary school Christmas musical!

    Ruth - Oh yeah, a good crowd response to the national anthem at a ball game always gets me all swelled up inside and mushy, ESPECIALLY if there are soldiers in uniform present. And, I'm always so pleased when men actually take off their caps! (So many don't, and it is a big pet peeve of mine.)

    Does anyone else get that really tingly happy feeling at a ball game when everyone in the stands is stomping and clapping in time to a rhythm and chanting together?

    OK, I STILL bawl when I think about this, and it was a few years ago! A Reserve unit based out of our town and another little town just down the highway came back from Iraq. Our county threw a huge bash for them in our town! Main St. was packed, and there was parade. 3 jets from Little Rock AFB did a flyover. After the parade, the unit stood at parade attention in the park where the town founder's grave is behind the library and had their official dismissal from their commander and broke formation. The cheering was INCREDIBLE! Everyone swarmed them hugging them, shaking their hands, talking to them. (My son was 4 or so at the time, and he was carrying around his Build-a-Bear teddy bear dressed in ACU's and dogtags, and all the female soldiers were oooing and coooing over him and doting on him. LOL He liked "the lady soldiers" LOL!) Those men and women and their families were kings and queens that day.

    An hour or so afterward, we were at Walmart. Anyone in that place wearing a uniform was treated like royalty. It was taking each soldier forever to get his/her stuff and make it through the check out because they kept getting stopped for handshakes, pats on the shoulder, and thank yous.

    *goes back into hiding*

  16. You'd think after all these tears I'd have picked up There's Just Life's habit of always carrying kleenex, but No!

    And my daughters just saw Toy Story 3 -- my youngest said she started crying the moment it started because it brought her back to her own childhood and all the changes since.

    And as for soldiers -- on that cottage trip I took last weekend, we passed the motorcade on the Highway of Heroes for the Canadian soldier who just died in Afghanistan. If you're not familiar, every fallen soldier gets a 250 km motorcade from the base in Trenton to the Toronto Coroner's Office. Okay, reason for real tears here. But the moving addition to this is that there are dozens of bridges spanning the highway between here and there and EACH ONE is lined with dozens of well-wishers and firetrucks. These people wait hours on the bridges to show their respect. For every fallen soldier. Teared up for the entire 250 k. Bawled when we finally passed the motorcade.

  17. Rigel thanks for the perfect wishes for me! I guess you could say that this particular blog brought the water works out in all of us. I have been reading all the comments and thinking "wow, I love tears for joy!" and I love the fact that their are endless reasons that make us cry for beauty.

  18. ok, add me to the weepy Cancers list. And, yes, I weeped through your sister's photovideo. Nice.

    Also, I so want one of those t-shirts. I think you should have them made up.

    Cute baby doll tees, and I'm in.

  19. Here ya go, Barbara:

  20. Barbara I get all weepy eyed too when I see something like you seen for the fallen soldier. I have a friend that is in the war and is over there in those horrible nasty places. I always get teary eyed when he sends letters or I talk to him. I have not seen him in so long so it is always a joy when we do see each other. I have so much respect for him and everybody else over their. I can't even watch the news anymore because I think of him when something comes on about the war and I tend to tear up.


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