Saturday, 27 August 2016

Tears of a clown

Is it stronger to be ‘in touch’ with one’s emotions or to be able to control them?
Following her divine ‘call’ Margery Kempe (born c.1373) begins to experience strengthuncontrollable fits of crying. The extravagance of her piety expressed in these noisy outbursts variously bemuse, impress, or annoy everyone she meets. Crowds gather to hear her, others want her to shut up. She both follows and competes with St Bride. Apparently Jesus comes to her in a vision tells her ‘Bridget never saw me the way you do’…
The most mundane sights bring forth Margery’s tears – baby boys and handsome young men among other things. She makes friends and enemies in equal measure and relishes the hostility of the latter as evidence of her martyrdom. In her autobiography The Book of Margery Kempe we hear nothing of her fourteen children and she appears to see her husband as a nuisance rather than a companion.
Her book eventually found favour with the Carthusian monks of Mount Grace in Yorkshire. They were not willing to countenance Margery’s account of making the Virgin Mary some hot soup following the crucifixion and duly crossed out that passage. Yet the somewhat ‘romantic’ language with which Kempe expressed her relationship with Christ (apparently he told her ‘when you are in bed’ ‘you may take me as your wedded husband…take me boldly into the arms of your soul’) appeared not to trouble them. Or maybe it was too embarrassing to comment on…
So which camp would I fall into? Not a fan but I hope I would avoid giving more attention through open disapproval. Balance hot air with cool indifference. There’s a modern day Margery in my family whose emotional expressions are so large and loud there’s no room for anyone else’s. I find it selfish and I resent being forced to counter-balance. But hot plus hot equals boiling which is unbearable for everyone.
Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment
Norman Mailer, 1923-2007

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