About Emotion and Criticism

When I studied in NY, my great friend and ex-roommate Joss, had a theory that she evaluated every semester. According to her, it did not matter how different the classes she chose for the semester were, at some point they always met at a point that united them all. I never knew if things were really all connected, or as Joao Carlos, an arts and communication professor, always said it was because of our repertoire that we are able to connect and appreciate things more or less. I later on married to a neuroscientist, and started to think of Joao Carlos’ repertoire as bases for neurological networks that connect the way they can according to the information we hold. There are days that my atheism and scepticism is strong and the neurological and evolutionary explanations are more than enough to explain those connections. Other days, however, I use these neuro-networks to connect Jung´s notion of synchronicity, with the mystic´s idea of connectivity, with the wanderings (that I have no way of judging) of quantum physicists. In the end, I still do not know the reason for those meeting points, but I could never deny that Joss was right, they always happen.

This point happened to me one of these days as I attended a concert by Paco de Lucia here in London. In fact, it happened afterwards, when I said goodbye to the friends I watched the concert with and carefully considered our conversation.

In the beginning of the concert, the guitar strings vacillated, teetered and some notes did not come out. I paid attention, a lot of attention to those faults. I paid attention in the emotion the man next to me felt to see his idol. I paid attention to the group of Spaniards who kept screaming ‘Maestro’ during the concert, to the people who filmed, those who took pictures, those who whistled… Enfin, I paid attention to everything but that moment. In the second part of the concert, I stopped looking around, and I finally felt the music. And as usual I was overcome by emotion.

On my way out, I ran into my friends. One, like me, had paid enormous attention to the mistakes. The other, a flamenco player himself and huge Paco de Lucia fan, did notice those notes as well, but to him it meant little. Paco had been great, his timing always perfect, his hand unexplainably fast. The emotion he had felt came from being in front of this man, who is the greatest flamenco guitarist alive.

And only when I came home I could finally understand that moment: the dichotomy between emotion and criticism. I realized that every time I let myself be taken by the emotion of being in front of someone or something I admire, I insist on minimizing my critical sense. I guess out of fear perhaps of finding a fault and not being able to admire it any longer. On the other hand, when I let my criticism go unchecked, I inevitably miss the moment. The problem I realize does not lie in criticism itself, or in the emotion, but in the idea that something must be perfect as a whole all the time. My friend was right, who cares if some notes did not come out? Paco is fenomenal!

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