So after fencing practice went well last week, I’ve done a bit more thinking in regards to the Axesperiment. I think that the way I described the reaction to emotions was not quite correct. I would like to try to clarify. I’ll even go back and re-read some of my previous words, much as I despise doing so, just for you! Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re about to get a little philosophical. Maybe even zen.
The issue here is the phrasing of “not feeling at all.” Upon review, that doesn’t feel precise enough. After all, emotions by definition are things that we cannot (in the typical course of things) control; they seem to happen outside the purview of the rational mind. However, I think it is safe to say that the ability to feel emotions is one of the things that make us human. Without emotion, we would end up completely unfeeling
velociraptors sociopaths (or depressed).
Plus, suppressing emotions only seems to make them stronger in the long run. I think that one could make the argument that many of the conflicts stemming from religion in our modern age are the result of denial and suppression. While the issue of religion deserves its own dedicated discussion, permit me one example: the surprising number of anti-gay bigots who are later revealed to be deeply closeted themselves. But I don’t want to get sidetracked; let us for now acknowledge that emotional repression is a Bad Thing™,and thus something to be avoided.
So if we don’t want to block off or bury, where does that leave us? Well, what if we just don’t let things stick? This is where it may start to get zen. When I was fencing, I noticed that the emotions were still there. However, it was most effective to acknowledge their existence and just let them pass on. Emotions would pop up, but rather than giving them attention and legitimacy by focusing on them (in order to suppress; they were already there, so the first step of blocking didn’t work), my mind-Spock basically said “Fascinating” before turning back to the task at hand. I am reminded of the “Litany Against Fear” of the Bene Gesserit in Dune:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
It may sound corny and new-agey, but while we may not be able to control what we feel, we do have some hope of controlling how we respond to emotions. And why would we want to control what we feel? Emotion acts as a randomizing factor, keeping life interesting and engaging. The loss of emotion robs life of much of what makes it worth living; I have enough problems remembering to feel in day-to-day life that I don’t need to actively avoid it when I’m having fun with my hobbies.