I mentioned to a friend that my next blog post might be on sentimentality, my own sentimentality, or what does it mean to be “moved.” “Too self-focused,” she responded. “Use that marvelous voice of yours to draw attention to the large and urgent political and social questions of the day.” The last words are mine, not hers, but she said something like that. I’ve tried to do what she said, and have not yet gotten past boredom with my pomposity and analytical self-righteousness.
So I’m going back to the beginning.
Why was I moved to write about my own sentimentality? Because my eyes pricked when I read about Pope Francis as he prepares to visit the US, and I felt faintly ashamed of my sentimentality. Feeling tearful about the gestures of one of the most influential men today – an old man, who apparently still has the ability to touch a stranger without transaction, with a simple generosity of spirit, this touch tied powerfully, thanks to his position, to political and economic critique – seemed like the bathetic sentimentality of a suburban American woman, sloshing somewhere between gullibility and expediency, a fantasy of philosophical “good” to offset the helplessness and collusion of her small life in the face of “bad.”
But sentimentality isn’t just self-indulgence. And bathos, like tiredness, is underrated.
So, beyond self-indulgence and bathos (and false consciousness and what not), what might it mean to be moved?
You know that the only answer can be “this and that, it depends, sometimes.” But weaseling aside, so often being moved becomes an alibi for inaction. Occasionally, it is the catalyst for action. And, always, being moved means that you can touch me, I’m not lost, and change is possible.