“He who feels strongly behaves.” Marianne Moore wrote a beautiful poem about intense emotion and the heart’s ways of accommodating that intensity. She used beautiful watery imagery of those intense emotions doing battle with structure and describes them as “surrendering” but noted that “in its surrendering, finds its continuing.”
I think here a distinction must be noted between raw, unmediated passion which Freud would have called “drive energy” and feelings or emotions. Feelings are the product of the primal energy but they have been “processed” by our neurocortical machinery and can find expression in an “appropriate” fashion. Admittedly “appropriate” is a nebulous term and many people of mature, strong feelings must push the limits of “appropriate” to give expression to their feelings and to accomplish their purpose.
I have written lately of my three-decade long escape from “literallew” who preceded this present altar ego. And now I often have intense emotion burgeoning forth in my heart and life, emotion so intense that at times I don’t know what to do with it. Yes, it rattles my cage on occasion and besets me with a lot of anxiety. But I am blessed with the ability to listen to Ms. Moore’s directive and “behave”…most of the time! And my “behaving” includes a lot of attention to my daily devotional which I describe as “chopping wood, carrying water.” And I love T. S. Sliot’s wisdom on how to respond to intense religious emotional sentiment, telling us we have to offer only, “Prayer, observance, discipline, thought, and action.” And these actions, in my case, usually find me deeply immersed in “Mother Earth” and caring for her and her creatures, flora and fauna.
WHAT ARE YEARS
By Marianne Moore
What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt, –
dumbly calling, deafly listening-that
in misfortune, even death,
and in its defeat, stirs
the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
in its surrendering
finds its continuing.
So he who strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
This is mortality,