Does anyone get sad anymore? It seems like a silly question. And yet, despite ours being an age of immiseration and self-disclosure, sorrow and other feelings are nowhere to be seen.
According to the official court history of the 21st century, we talk a lot more. No longer are sensitive problems a stigma. Vulnerability is allowed. The assumption is that, compared to our forebears, we are much more in touch with our feelings, more open to sharing them, and more caring when it comes to listening to others share theirs.
Yet sadness has quite left the stage. Sorrow is now a period word, one of many other feelings rendered obsolete. Alienation, loneliness, mourning, melancholy, ecstasy, belonging, even happiness — all now sound like luxury brands. Have we ceased to articulate our own lives in terms of feeling, and to hear and recognize feeling in the lives of others? Or has our century, like other eras, invented new emotions? Will any of the old ones ever return?
Feelings in general are, of course, still around. But where? Perhaps where Nick Cave found sorrow, “sent to the back of the class, where it sits, pissing its pants in mortal terror”—which is to say, still there, but marginalized, frightened, abject. If so, will we ever get this and other emotions back? And who put them at the back of the class in the first place?