Fallacies in Feelings

"Fallacies in Feelings"

The New Yorker article on Lauren Berlant’s “affect theory” and the unattainable American Dream (Hua Hsu, “That Feeling When,” March 25, 2019) fascinated me as a musician. I connect with the term "affect" as a centuries-old musical topic tracing back to the Baroque Era (Doctrine of Affections), when the concept of Western harmony was established, enabling a wide array of “affections” to be expressed. Music's ability to persuade the emotions has not always been used ethically, but its capacity to enlighten us remains true. Playing Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety (composed soon after the explosion of the first atomic bomb) has made me somberly aware that our collective moodiness has become normalized with today’s overstimulated / hyper-speed / materialistic lifestyle. Not even a deep meditation or a mantra of “I am calm!” can reduce for long our developed susceptibility to disappointment. With increasing “microaggressions” (as Andrew B. Myers puts it), constant reports of corruption and violence in the news, and a general distrust of all experts, the world seems stacked against anyone attempting to process emotions and to be "well-tempered.” At the same time, we have neither protection from constant comparisons nor adequate communal attachments to help us recognize fallacies in our feelings. Too often we sink deeper into our emotions in pursuit of a transient authenticity. But, when we engage with minds and hearts greater than ourselves, we can be liberated and disenchanted with our despair and breathe in the awesomeness of creation.