Tuesday, 24 November 2009

On Being Easily Moved

I happened to catch the end of 'Goodbye Mr Chips' recently. (The 1969 version starring Peter O'Toole.) I found the closing speech where the socially inept Mr Chips puts into words his feelings for the boys surprisingly moving. Maybe it struck a cord, me being a schoolmaster for a considerable number of years. If nothing else it made me examine aspects of my being that seldom surface in the busy, brusque, often insensitive world we live in.
I was brought up in a time after the war where the term 'cry baby' often figured. A 'cry baby' was dismissed as inferior, weak and certainly unmanly. Which is probably why on at least two occasions I limped home, metaphorically and literally with broken bones. My efforts at competing with the 'bigger boys' might well often end in failure but, good heavens, you didn't let it show, broken bones or no broken bones. And I remember arriving home at the age of thirteen to be told my mother had died. Then, amazingly, I went out and did my paper round. I report this merely as fact, not a matter of pride. No tears, nothing but unbridled sorrow and bewilderment.
Experiences in life teach us, mould us, change us, for better or worse and make the finished article, however flawed. Girls cry, boys have a stiff upper lip, or so we were taught. (The British Empire and all that.) Fortunately times change, thank goodness.
I once saw an elderly male teacher cry with the frustrations of the job. I was embarrassed to see a man crying; I was wrong. But bit by bit the joys of marriage, children softened me and the steely male front has slipped away. Not totally, but at least to a degree. I know this must be so. I would never at one time been moved by Mr Chips, never mind a celluloid version of life's sensibilities.
I cry nowadays, not too often but enough. I howled as I watched both the Liverpool Heysel (1985) and Hillsborough (1989) tragedies unfold on the television. In frustration, sympathy. (I am an ardent football fan) Similarly the Bradford City fire (1985) brought my to tears as I watched the tragedy unfold, again on the television. Indeed, you would have to be a strangely unemotional individual not to be moved by such tragic events. I am not a 'touchy feely' sort of person and that is not particularly good. My daughters are into 'hugs' (many of the younger generation tend to be so and I am mightily impressed.) But I can be moved nowadays and I am pleased. The feeling experienced at Wembley Stadium when Derby County won an important match had to be experienced to be believed. (play off versus WBA 2007.) That something as unimportant as a football match could move me so much is amazing in a way. But only a football fan could experience the elation involved.
Emotional development is important. What is a person without emotional development. You tell me. A psychopath, perhaps? And I believe at least in part it is taught by example.
I have read John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' many, many times. It was a regular choice of mine when teaching English literature to adolescents. We would read it out loud together, no looking at a film and pretending we had read the book. (How old fashioned it all sounds now.)
You would have to be bereft of any feeling whatsoever not to be moved by the end of the tragic giant Lennie at the hand of his friend George. But to see teenagers, sometimes hardened teenagers with tears in their eyes shows the power of the written word. It also suggests there is perhaps hope for all. (Two teenagers were sentenced this week for the shotgun murder of another teenager in a park less than a mile from my home. The victims offence, he 'dissed' the mother of one of the assailants. Perhaps I am totally wrong and there is no hope. My lovely grandchildren suggest otherwise.)
I had not intended this piece of writing to go in the direction it has. But the murder on my doorstep makes me wonder at the emotional development or otherwise of some of today's more deprived youngsters. Where is it all going wrong, a world where a teenager will dispatch a fellow being to eternity with little thought or compulsion. Surely a person without feelings is a person without hope.
A non too serious test of my readers emotional development. My favourite recording is 'Old Shep' by Walter Brennan. Trite, sentimental it still moves me on a good day. What do you reckon. And what brings a lump to your throat in this hard, often unsentimental world? Plus a promise, my next blog will be cheerful in the extreme. Now there's a thought!

30 comments:

HER ON THE HILL said...

Hi Ken - a thoughtful and poignant post, thank you. What makes me cry? Well, being ridiculously over-sensitive, sentimental, nostalgic and emotional - just about anything!! I really do cry at the drop of a hat. Very therapeutic though, if not a little inconvenient. I cried the other day at a Head Girl's speech; I cried this morning when a song my girls love listening to in the car with their father came on the radio; I cried this morning too at the thought of a funeral next week of a woman who has gone far too young and totally unexpectedly leaving her family totally bereft. I am moved by love, loss, loyalty. I was moved by your telling of your reaction to the day your mother died - taking refuge in the mundane, yet totally 'bewildered' at the sudden turn of events. I am moved by age and wisdom and I am angered by ignorance, superficiality, stupidity and arrogance. Too much of it around these days - mainly, I believe, through poor education and facilities for the young and on over-reliance on mindless computer games and TV programmes, let alone the general breakdown of faith and family. Wow! Ken, this is all a bit heavy for a Tuesday lunchtime! What have you done?? Thanks for being thought-provoking.

On a lighter note, though, firstly a rather belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY. And secondly, you will be pleased to hear, I have rectified the broken link on my last post especially for you so you can see the girl scratching her bare bot. Take it as my birthday present to you!!

Mark said...

Great post today - I am nostalgic and can become tearful at the passing of time. My children can reduce me to tears; poetry sometimes too.

I'm not a 'blubber' though - seldom cry at funerals and teh like.

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

I enjoyed your post. And also Old Shep. The video. Dogs are, in my opinion, man's best friend. I have had dogs since I was born 75 years ago. Autumn, our last dog, died in 2006. I still miss her. My wife doesn't want to get another one because she doesn't want to go through the death of another pet. So we will see. I have told her I want another dog.

Brian Miller said...

thanks for dropping by so i could find you...why is there such a stigma to men crying...i am moved by seeing people that are hurting, or lacking basic necessities or feel they have no way out of their present circumstances...

and i love of mice and men....movies never do them justice...happy thanksgiving!

Valerie said...

I couldn't listen to the video, Ken. I always found it too emotional. What makes me cry? I seem to weep more regularly these days, anything emotional sets me off. But I don't usually cry when I read... at least I didn't think I did. Until the other day, when reading an emotive last chapter was almost impossible. As for men crying, I believe they should. They don't have to prove anything to anyone. And think of the stress relief that tears bring.

martine frampton said...

Dear Ken, Concerning 'Rape a love story' ... on the contrary, if a book is worth reading then it does not matter what your gender is and you should not shy away from books just because you might perceive them as being 'women's books'. It is a book about a particular, very specific aspect of human experience but the reactions of the male characters are as important to the book as the victim's.
with best wishes Martine

Anita said...

Hello Grumpy Old Ken :)
I'm branching out today - trying to find a male blog author to follow...and that will be you!
I enjoyed the post. I gathered from it that you are sensitive, and that you have an appreciation of books, family and animals.
I envy you having read many of the classics. I've read a few, but now with children to raise and educate, I tend to read "easier" books. I can see myself in a mobile home, reading and writing, when the kids are all in college. Sounds like a nice life. :)

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

lovely post Ken...
glad l got round to seeing you, as l am off sick with the lurgy I am able to get to all my friends instead of a few moments here and there...

Crying is all to easy for me, my latin heritage and whisical emotions..hey ho l'm a woman eso no chance..
I cry at newspaper articles, a lovely turn of phrase may read here in blogland, a poignant post...a youtube extract like your one here...cruelty, humilation, the unjustnesas of it all...

great post and subject...

Frogdancer said...

I love that movie. Just love it.

Akelamalu said...

I admire a man who isn't afraid to show emotion and occasional tears. My hubby is often moved to tears as he's got older. I can cry at the drop of a hat.

I'm sorry you lost your mother at such a tender age.

mutleythedog said...

What a clever thoughtful post Ken - I am afraid dogs dying is a little to close to the bone for me today, yep still cry about my old friend sometimes. Like now.

Clippy Mat said...

Ken:
Hi. Happy belated birthday, just catching up with your recent posts. thanks for the video, it brought tear to my eye. It's that voice of his isn't it?
:-)

A Heron's View said...

Hello Ken,

I was born in the early 40's when repression was rife in all of our lives. The climate of change started when I was 30 & these days I can claim to be Fully Alive, in being able to sense, feel & express the whole galmut of emotions, including the joy of giving & receieving hugs.

Thank you for giving of your inner self.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

On the Hill
Thanks
Very thoughtful comments. But who wants to be hard. Girls backside is glorious, made my day!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Mark
Thanks. I reckon you have it about right.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Abraham Lincoln
Hi
It is also my first time without a dog for thirty? years.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Brian Miller
Thanks for visiting. Lovely, sensible words.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Valerie
Interesting that you use the word weep rather than cry. But you talk sense either way.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

marine
Hi
I take your point re the book. We (men) can be insensitive altough we try not to be.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Anita
Hi
Lovely to meet you. I am honoured.
I'm not that well read but we had to read quite a lot in teaching.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Fat Frumpy
Thanks for the kind words. Hope you get well soon. You sound very well balanced to me and sensitive with it.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

FrogDancer.
Hi
Which movie? You sound sensitive enough to enjoy them all!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Akelamalu
Hi
Thanks for kind words. Do we get better or worse as we get older I wonder.

Kelloggsville said...

Gosh - what a thought provoker. What a rotten thing to lose your mother so early.

I cry at anything that is uplifting (bizarely) - tonight I cried at "how to look good naked" - a fabulous 71 year old lady rediscovering herself.

But yes Heysel, Hillborough, Bradford, Zebrugger, Manchester bombing, the Iranian Embassey siege (I didn't cry at the time I was too scared - now I cry when I see it on tv because I remember how frightened I was), 911, oh the list is endless - human tragedy: If we didn't feel it we would be emotionally dead.

I enjoyed your read (as always) - thank you

Grumpy Old Ken said...

mutley
Thanks. What sort of person would not cry when remembering all the years of love a dog gives.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Clippy Mat
Thanks. Walt Brennan was a genius but his American President CD is in his normal voice and I dont like it. There again I'm not American.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

a Herons View
Hi
Thanks for your words. I can relate to them, very much so.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Kellogsville
Hi
Thanks. You are quite right but I wonder how much is taught and how much is natural. If the latter why do some never cry. I know very much so my experiences shaped my emotional development.

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