Last night I sat on my window sill, drinking in a luminous summer evening, listening to William Fitzsimmons and Brooke Fraser stir up a love that gradually slipped through someone’s fingers. As they sang I relived the almost loves I have lost and understood what Leo Tolstoy meant when he said that music is the shorthand of emotion.
Plato said that human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. For better or for worse the first two are often the stronger driving forces, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn put it, “It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones.”
I agree with Paul Cezanne that a work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art, and it was Henri Mattise that said he did not literally paint things but rather the emotions that they produced in him. I echo Oscar Wilde’s sentiments: I do not want to live at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them – not the other way around. Vincent van Gogh cautioned against emotions captaining our lives to the point where we obey them without even realizing. As Rainer Maria Rilke said, “All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.”