7/7/2020 0 Comments
On an aesthetics of emotion
Does meaning drain out of life as you get older, Agnes Callard asks, and nearly all the respondents say no, except for some of the younger ones, and me. I answered emotionally, not logically, and even as I was answering yes, I was thinking but is a novel drained of meaning in its last few chapters? Is a sonnet drained of meaning after the volta? When we think of an untimely death, we think of someone dying too young, before they have lived the story of their lives, but the Romans were as likely to think of an untimely death as a problem of overliving, the idea that you could live past the time you should have died. Call no man happy until he is dead, as if life were a story and you could go past the happy ending to a time when everything that made sense - the marriage to Darcy, the saving of Wilbur the pig - has become a source of regret, a dirty pig-sty with a demented, old pig, covered in cobwebs. What do we mean by meaning, narrative integrity? A sense that it matters what we do? An emotional depth or resonance to the details of how we live? Regret is an emotion that has at least as much aesthetic depth as hope. Perhaps we can live on, suffused with regret, like a beautiful sonata. Maybe thinking of life in terms of an aesthetics of emotion, rather than in terms of narrative and narrative structure, is a way of living in the present, rather than towards a future that is always diminishing.
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These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.