I cannot stop thinking about this topic. Why is it automatically assumed that it is inferior, unsophisticated, undesirable, or even shameful to be sentimental, emotionally honest, and vulnerable? Why is it so bad and so scary to lay your pain and joy bare to all the world to see?
I am thinking of the various David Wilson's programs that are often criticized for being boring, sentimental, or cheesy. Take for example The Way We Were he made for Dube and Davison last season. It makes perfect sense knowing their history. Take for example my favorite of all of Michelle Kwan's programs --- not any competitive program but the exhibition "Fields of Gold," after she did not win the Olympic gold medal.
It occurred to me that intellectuals tend to celebrate perfect, flawless works that are to be admired. A creation is judged by how few blemishes it contains. Diamonds are a highly desirable object, because it is the hardest substance and resistant to cuts and scratches. We celebrate people and feelings that cannot be harmed and hurt. Strength and toughness. Pure beauty. The absence of vulnerability. The purer the better. Being earnest is far worse than being stupid or nasty.
Yet that is not what people respond to. People respond to schmaltz.
You can dismiss it as shallow, silly, simple-minded, and naive, but in reality emotions have a much stronger grip on our brain (or what is known as the heart) than intellectual thoughts. And what connects us is emotional empathy between any two people.
Although admiration for something hard and flawless is powerful, it is no match for touching one's soft spot in the heart. The cortex of consciousness looks down on the lowly emotional brain, but even the rationale brain has learned enough science to realize that it is the emotional brain that rules our behaviors and instincts.
(Well, what am I trying to say? It is late and I cannot sleep. I am rambling.)
When honest emotions are laid out with no pretension, no shell of self-protection, no attempt to impress or manipulate, no intention to seduce or conquer, no dressing-up, no projection of fear, when all you give is "Look, this is my pain, my errors, my vulnerability, my true self, and nothing else," I think you get something that resonates.
Perhaps emotions get a bad reputation because they are susceptible to manipulations by falsehood and because they have no advocate in front of the abstract mind. Yet, there is a distinctive difference between cheap, manipulative attempts and honesty. I do believe that most people can tell the difference when they are presented with something that is true and raw.
Emotions are by nature not complex or abstract, not rationale, not cool, not flawless, not invincible. It takes enormous courage and strength to allow others, even strangers, to access one's most tender and vulnerable emotions. It takes enormous faith in human empathy and kindness to give a piece of oneself to others and expect them to treat it with tenderness and care. Most of us cannot. Most of us are afraid.
I know a lot of Canadian skaters and their programs are considered too cheesy, too naive, too shallow, too simple, and unsophisticated. Yet I am often moved by this trust they seem to place in others and almost covet it, for it takes a generous and kind people to allow this sense of safety, so that one can lay bare one's emotions without the fear of being ridiculed or harmed.
I believe art is a bond that connects people. In life we have enough reasons to hide behind each of our armors of pretension. Art is a place where people find refuge to be their true selves. Art demands a certain humility; it demands that you give a piece of you that is completely real. It may not count as high art, but it is real.