Friday, September 10, 2010

How Big Are Feelings?

 Yesterday, when the students in our school chorus sang a stirring rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, I was moved almost to tears by a mixture of feelings, and later I wondered just how big those feelings were. Of course, in some ways it’s a perfectly silly question, because there’s no way to measure feelings, and surely never will be. A feeling is not a material object, like a shoe or a sack of potatoes – not a “thing” that starts somewhere and stops somewhere and thus can be easily measured. A feeling, I guess, is the opposite of a material thing – an invisible force as measureless as the air around us. When we say we are “carried away” by a feeling, we don’t realize how right we are, and that a feeling can bear us beyond the farthest frontiers. Sometimes I see this in my students’ eyes as we discuss the books they’re reading. It’s as if the book has given birth to feelings that are still flying away inside them, and the students are simply hanging on for the ride. I see it sometimes in their written sentences, too – in sentences that clearly carry the weight of young feelings that are big beyond measure. I feel fortunate -- privileged, really – that my daily work involves being in the presence of such limitless forces.

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