Can I help it if I’m too sentimental to trust my instincts? Oh how many times have I stepped onto thin ice, just name the setting: employment, friendships, hodgepodge transactions of every sort. I’m the dope who thinks the car salesman “likes” him and to answer the question, apparently not.
Trust is a necessary adjunct to civics but its relationship to sentiment is poorly understood. Ernest Hemingway said: “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them,” which is fine advice but it ignores the clouded and moist diffusions of tender feelings. If you grow up in a loveless house you’ll likely misunderstand affection–hardly any news there–but let’s think of sentimentality, the resistance to one’s better judgements, that Miltonic snake, as one of the worst things that can befall us and one of the most necessary.
Hemingway was mostly right. Wanting to be loved, dare to be loved, decide you’re in love, look for it in all the wrong places. Give it a go.
Sentiment, that gushy thing is not what we suppose for its merely the desire to love the self so in turn it becomes brittle, demanding and manipulative. Thomas Merton wrote: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
When I imagine the car salesman likes me I’m not perfectly myself. When I think workplace colleagues will be true friends I’m not at all myself. I’m just another sad soul demanding others reflect me. Baby Narcissus.
None of this is news. But sentiment has a worse trick up its sleeve. One is so in love with being in love, so thirsty a failure of almost sub-atomic proportions occurs. Here’s Emerson:
“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.”
I’ll presume atoms have no sentiment, just life.