Once I heard a twenty something someone say, “I have emotional greatness,” when a friend marveled over his text. The communication was read aloud. While contemplative and smart, the emotional component seemed rather banal to me. Was I missing something?
Then, last week, I found a Ted Talk http://bit.ly/1semP0S on empathy. The speaker said that empathy will save the world but it is decreasing at a rapid rate. This generation has 50% less empathy than generations before. I recalled a group of millenials sitting next to me in a café a couple of years ago. Huddled over a book, someone exclaimed “These paintings make people cry! Five heads leaned in, got closer, touched it, awed. “(Pictures and Tears :A History of People That Cried in Front of Paintings :Paintings That Make People Cry by James Elkins) They immediately planned an excursion to view the works in the flesh. It was as if they were starved for a deep, passionate, expansive, emotional experience. I was intrigued by the pursuit of tears as a positive
What is emotional greatness? I could not find a clear definition when I searched but the term was very familiar to me. I had heard it from my father when I was about 14. I had asked him why he called me Carrie when my name is Grace Caroline and he said,
“You were named for the book Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser.”
“Why,” I asked?
“She has emotional greatness,” he said.
“What is that?”
“Feeling deeply, knowing through emotion, passion, ups and downs, taking it all in.”
“Oh. Okay. But is that good?”
“It’s what makes life worth living.”