The Art of Feeling

A dear friend of mine incessantly used to ask a question, both to new acquaintances and old friends, “If you could dream, fully lucid, for 24 hours, what would you do?”

I pondered this question for quite some time, pouring over options such as endless riches or the ultimate romantic relationship, but the answer surprisingly came from somewhere deeper within me: “I want to feel,” I answered.

Growing up, I’ve always felt particularly in tune with my emotions. I specifically remember a time when my mother asked that I take my little sister to see A Dolphin’s Tail, a movie that I inferred would undoubtedly be ridiculous. I was right. However, though the movie was littered with cliché dialogue and predictable plot points, the crescendo of the movie began to excavate a deep feeling that I couldn’t deny or bury with cynicism; I was moved. Although this experience is humorous to recollect, I believe it helped lead me to answer my friend’s question. I realized what a gift it is to be moved, to really feel to the fullest capacity. To fully feel that speech, that song, that battle cry, that poem, that passage, that performance, that artwork, that heartbreak, that suffering — this is a large component of what it means to be truly human.

In an age where emotional sensitivity is typically seen as weakness, along with the overwhelming pervasiveness of social media, it can be difficult to feel deeply. Social media, to some extent, has created a barrier to true feeling. Instead of being present for a movie or play we mindlessly scroll through Instagram. We spend the better part of our free time numbing ourselves by scrolling through feeds, consequently missing out on the beauty that is offered by art. Why do we do this? It could be because vulnerability is hard; a quick Twitter visit is more accessible and “satisfies” us at our own convenience. Inevitably, vulnerability splays you out on a table and fosters inner confrontation, ultimately yielding personal growth.

This isn’t an article bashing social media or pleading for internet celibates. It’s an invitation to consciously make an effort to let our walls down and increase our vulnerability and receptivity to feeling. I think, in turn, we may unlock a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.