Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Emotion And Reason

For years I've told myself that to be an adult means to master my emotions; to calm my anger, to chide my jealousy and to never get carried away--even with happiness. I'm not sure whether I misapplied this basic principle of "growing up" or whether I was influenced by a keep-it-together-at-all-costs society, but I somehow didn't quite get it right.

I've only recently realized that emotion is a wonderful gift. Naturally I understand the counsel to bridle my passions, and I certainly don't want to be tossed about on the waves of emotion, but even moderation can be taken to an excess. I think I got it all wrong. I took my emotions and placed them in carefully-labeled bottles and shelved them away inside my brain.

Emotions don't belong in the brain. They must be tempered by logic and reason, but they must never become a next-door neighbor. This is why even the scriptures counsel us to listen to our minds and our hearts. They work together as two distinct and complementary units of humanity.

Yes, it feels corny and strange to enjoy my emotions. It feels childish to feel the sand squishing between my toes and say to myself, "That is a simply splendid sensation!" It feels cliche and immature to actually watch a sunset for no other reason than to enjoy its' beauty.


... always that immortal "but" ...

I feel so alive, like I'm human and immortal at the same moment. I can feel myself breathing and I remember that I'm not a robot or a slave to conformity. I'm unique. I'm on fire with love and joy and desire. I can feel the cleansing power of pain and suffering and discomfort. That's okay, too. Better to be alive and feel the pain than to be emotionally and spiritually dead.

I realize that it's the emotion that's been missing when I sing. It's just this note, that note, keep it smooth, don't forget to breathe, don't push it, don't hold back, here comes that high A so brace yourself...

So this morning I put on my favorite emotion-laden songs and really performed them the way I feel them. I sang them to my wall, which never applauds but is very patient with me and never criticizes.

I stood perfectly still, because a dying woman who is grieving her missing child and the man who deserted her doesn't fidget. ("I Dreamed a Dream") I paced disconsolately, like a woman whose glory years have passed by but who still remembers and dreams of a better day. ("Memory") I stood on my toes, longing for those impossible dreams to be reality. ("On My Own")

Then I stopped singing and spun dizzily drunk with emotion. My whole body was electrified with life and I wondered if I might faint or just fall over. The intensity was draining and renewing. The sensation lasted for 10 or 15 minutes until normality stepped in, businesslike, and swept the tingling electricity out of my system.

For some people it's dance. Or singing. Or painting. Or the glories of nature. Or running. Or kickboxing. Or even cleaning. Whatever it is that transports you out of the mundane and into a different realm, embrace it. Keep your feet firmly planted on the earth, but make time to let your mind and your heart soar into the heavens. (Just don't be gone too long. Logic without feeling can kill your soul, but emotion without reason is far more dangerous...)


  1. That was beautiful! I love emotions. I am the kind that wears mine on my sleeve. I can't hide emotions because I feel if I were to do so, I would not be true to who I am. I love how honest you are, and that you were able to let those feelings sweep over and consume you!

  2. Let it soar, lady! Let it soar! It would be great fun to sing a quartet with you and the hubby!

  3. You write beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Emotions tend to get in the way in public, but in private they can be the way to "suck the marrow out of life." "I Dreamed a Dream" is one of those songs for me as well. Have you ever listened to Celtic Woman's "Someday?" Talk about a tear-jerker!