How are you feeling these days? Uncomfortable, hungry, terrified, pleasured, nostalgic, elated, confused, sad, compassionate, outraged, envious, irritated, angry, anxious, insecure, victimized, depressed, unhappy, distracted, overwhelmed, hopeful, content, peaceful, wrongly accused, “in a zone,” satisfied, smug, hostile, lonely, abandoned, blissed out, weary?

All of the above?

I have a friend who bristles at the question, “How are you?” because it sounds insincere–not to mention complicated. Some of us run through the full gamut of the emotional experiences listed above in the course of our daily odyssey. Or not.

Maybe a more pertinent question/greeting should be, “Are you feeling?”

If you had a choice, would you like to feel more or less than you do? When you feel something, is your inclination to ignore it, deny it, exaggerate it, obsess about it, discuss it out loud with the first person you can reach by cellphone, attempt to talk yourself out of it, figure out what to do about it, suppress it, store it as ammunition for later retaliation–or just feel it?

Living alone, and mostly without television, one’s emotional life becomes “louder.” That, as you might imagine, has its pluses and minuses. Living alone, you can hear more clearly what you’re thinking, but you’re also more aware of what you’re feeling. If you don’t resort to distractions of the electronic variety, sometimes you have no alternative but to feel what you’re feeling.

But as David E. Kelley had Peter MacNicoll say in Ally McBeal (which dates my TV watching), “feeling anything at my age is pretty good company.”

We have a craving to be moved–by something other than our petty grievances, that is. Direct human interaction is best, but failing that, we seek it through TV, films, books, magazines, or – more and more – the Internet. We have become media voyeurs because media tells stories of other lives and the feelings our fellow human beings contend with – sometimes great emotions, the ones we rarely encounter … or actively avoid.

I have walked out of films like Babel, Crash, or Painted Veil (which the Lake Theatre should be showing), actually feeling more “human,” meaning it induced some seismic shift of my emotional tectonic plates. Media reaches “art” when it enables us to feel “with” someone, even if that someone is the figment of some brilliant writer’s imagination.

One of the drawbacks of modern life is that we can go long stretches, wrapped in the cocoons of our “comfort zones,” feeling little or nothing at all until we start to wither inside from emotional deprivation. We may be pickled in sentimentality or melodrama, but those are “virtual emotions,” cheap, processed feelings manufactured for easy ingestion by a consumer society.

That’s the curse of the mechanical nature of modern life, dominated by routine and drained of authenticity. A long winter can make that worse, intensifying our isolation and making us reluctant to re-establish connections.

Yet we want to be moved. We need to be moved. When we go long stretches without it, we lose touch with our humanity. We begin to feel soulless – or soul “sick.”

Anti-depressants can’t cure that.

If color is the emotion of nature, emotion is the color of the soul.

If we don’t experience beauty, joy and meaning on a regular basis, we begin to “feel” starved, waiting for something to burble up from our depths to surprise us and remind us that we are human after all and not merely consumers.

Music is one way to unclog the conduit and restart the flow of consciousness from our deeper, truer self. When you’re alone some night and in a reverie, try listening to the Adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony or Elgar’s Sospiri, or the Intermezzo from Thais.

I can pretty much guarantee you’ll feel something.

How are you feeling these days?

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