I’ve noticed something about the term “bleeding hearts”. It’s used in a vicious, derogatory way. If you have a bleeding heart, you are thought to be weak, ineffectual, risible, pointless and wrong. In this world, only fierce, visceral competition is valued and anybody that falls by the wayside was simply eliminated by stronger, more worthy people, which is thought to be all for the good.
Do we really want a world full of hard-hearted people, without any capacity for sympathy, empathy or mercy? Do we want to drive compassion out, as if it were some kind of horrible and shameful disease and replace it with a to-the-death competition to trample everybody else, while you get yours? Is it really the case that we want only the most brutal and violent to survive and for them to be praised as living heroes by the rest of us? Should all the rewards go to people whose chief ability is the propensity to not care a fig about anybody else or anything they don’t own?
I don’t think so.
Unfortunately, it seems to be the world we’ve got.
Displaying kindness, vulnerability, concern, affection, approachability, softness, and openness are not faults. In fact, they’re strengths. To be a good artist, you have to have a certain amount of these attributes. Your heart needs to have the capacity to bleed, where appropriate. If you can’t do that, you’re insular. You’re unable to relate to anybody at any meaningful level and your aesthetic sense sucks. Aesthetics is literally all about feeling and emotional affect. If you can’t feel, you can’t create or appreciate beauty. All you can produce is cold, heartless sterility.
So next time somebody calls you a member of the bleeding hearts and artists brigade, wear that badge with pride. It’s hard earned and hard to maintain. There is no greater good than to have the capacity to care.