Loud and Soft Emotions

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#unitecloud members at the SCSU MLK breakfast

I recently attended the Martin Luther King breakfast at SCSU with about 500 of my closest friends.  The keynote speaker—streamed live from Minneapolis– was Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts. His address moved and inspired me, but, more importantly, encouraged me to identify and examine my own ideas.

He posed to the audience: “Why do we shout our anger but whisper our love?  We should shout our love, always.”  So many people, including me, smiled widely and nodded their heads, looked at their friends across the table, said, “Yes!” Afterward, and since, I have been contemplating the roles of “loud” and “soft” emotions as we move forward with change and dialogue in the St. Cloud area.

Governor Patrick’s address caused a deep desire for self-reflection and then conversation. We have been hearing so much “loud” hate and negativity in St. Cloud lately, not only from within our small community but state-wide, even receiving national attention.  Among the most angrily vocal in St. Cloud, individuality is not appreciated; towing the line is widely valued. Differences are too-often considered negative, rather than appreciated for contributing to a richer and varied community.  Curiosity feels dead sometimes.

Why do we shout our anger, but whisper our love? - Deval Patrick Click To Tweet

As a person who wears her heart on her sleeve, I shout my emotions: all of them.  Maybe it’s because I’m Italian and from the East Coast. Not everyone appreciates this about me, or values it because it’s different, or likes me because of it.  One of the things I’ve learned, living in this community for the past fifteen years, is that I hear a lot of anger being shouted. I hear shouts of frustration, but not love.  Not often enough for me, anyway.

Governor Patrick’s remarks are one way of perceiving and expressing “loud” and “soft” emotions. You don’t have to decide yet if you agree with his assessment. Here’s another consideration:

Photo by Hindu Human Rights

A Hindu saint and his disciples were visiting the Ganges River where they found a group of family members shouting in anger at each other. Turning to his disciples, the saint smiled and asked, “Why do people, in anger, shout at each other?”

One of the disciples said, “Because when we lose our calm, we shout.”

“But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you?” countered the saint. “You can just as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner. When two people are angry at each other, their hearts are far apart.  They must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other, in order to cover that great distance. 

But what happens when two people fall in love? They talk very softly because their hearts are very close.

So when you argue, do not let your hearts get distant. Do not say words that distance each other more or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.”

I’m not advocating one philosophy over another.  Both are beautiful. Both are worthy. And anything that inspires me to question my own beliefs is pretty fantastic stuff. I’m never finished learning, thank goodness. None of us should be cut-and-dry in our lives. It leaves us no room to grow, to change, and to evolve. That’s the lifeblood of a community. Blood not pumped to the body, through the heart, dies.

I invite you to examine your “loud” and “soft” emotions. Do you shout your love to your inner circle and yet whisper your anger behind closed doors? Is it a shared belief? Does it create a sense of “Us” and “Them?” Or, do you reserve your deepest, loving feelings for quiet moments and explode with anger in the bigger world?

To leave you, I offer:

Whispered love is beautiful but whispered hate is toxic.

Shouted love is life affirming yet shouted hate can be destructive.

Are you curious? Is there room to express yourself differently?

About the Author

Catherine Verrilli

Catherine is the #unitecloud Advisory Board Chair. She is a professor of music at St. Cloud State University where she teaches Music in World Cultures, Music History, and Voice. As a singer she made her Carnegie Hall Debut in 2012 as a member of Trio Lorca. A native of Connecticut, Catherine has been married almost 30 years and is happiest the presence of animals. She and her husband moved to St. Cloud in 1999 from Washington, D.C.