My Emily says “Hope is the thing with feathers,”
But my rage is a thing with teeth.
It eats the news for breakfast –
Not a comfortable beast
Nor known for good conversation.
The neighbors stay away
But it howls the tune I’m dying to say,
Shreds the papers dictating the day,
Scores the walls –
And growls, there’s work to be done.
Would you argue?
Two exceptional writers pointed me in the direction of these words.
First, I owe a debt of thanks to Emily Dickinson for her poem, “Hope is the thing with feathers”. View the original here.
Second, Siri Hustvedt argues for the use of the first person possessive to claim artists’ intent in her essay “My Louise Bourgeois” (A Woman Looking At Men Looking At Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind). In her words, quoting (appropriately) Emily Dickinson: “When Emily Dickinson read about the death of George Eliot in the newspaper, she wrote the following sentence in a letter to her cousins: ‘The look of the words as they lay in the print I shall never forget. Not their face in the casket could have had the eternity to me. Now, my George Eliot.’”
Emotions are simple creatures and not to be trusted. Also, emotions are complex creatures and not to be trusted.
Both of those are true, to the extent that neither is quite true. Truth and trust aren’t necessary for something to motivate action, though I wish it were so.
Some people, I hear, are motivated by emotions like love, compassion, and kindness. It is an understatement to say I would like to be one of them. My life would be a calmer place. As it is, I have apathy, isolation, and rage. Of the three, anger shows the most promise for getting anything done. But it is not known for its peaceful coexistence with good judgement. Therefore, the great question I face each moment is: How do I create something constructive out of this?
In myths, the act of naming something tames it. In life, the act of speaking something shapes it. My particular creature is not a comfortable beast to live with. But we know each other well. When it growls, I’ve learned to listen. When I speak, it gives me some sort of truth. And when we hear singing, we both sit still and listen to the thing with feathers.