Thursday, May 12, 2011

Emotion as a Way of Knowing

Let us define emotion: it is the sum of the changes of your body as it experiences things; it is the product of those changes as the standpoint of your mind shifts, like shadow of a sundial as clouds cover the sun.

If emotion is a way of knowing, what knowledge does it lead us to? If it is a way, what kind of way — is it a broad thoroughfare or a narrow lane, an iron bridge or a wooden plank?

I sit and try to feel. There is no emotion that does not have the tides of the body, blood, bone, brain, brawn throbbing and pulsing behind it. There can be feelings without emotion, but no emotions without feelings. And each tendril of the emotional experience changes the world.

Emotion teaches you how a body, in all its chemical and biological and physical complexity, responds to the world of sense and being before the straitjackets of sensibility and reason confine it. Emotion bypasses the careful chalice of language, and spills that fluid into the world.

If emotion is a way of knowing, it leads us to knowledge of self, and how the self is the mirror of the other. It helps us to know the world without thinking about what it means in itself, but what it is, and what it means, to us.

Emotion is the manifold path which blazes like fire or spins like web across the forest of complexity. It joins point to unconnected point, it defies the voice of (t)reason. It outraces the slowness of induction, which teaches by accumulated experience and example; it outflanks the lethal thrust of deduction, which teaches by rule and law. It helps us to an intuitive conclusion before the unfolding of the story is complete.

And, if it is all that, it is also unreliable, sometimes scornful of validity, on occasion spectacularly unuseful. But it is the truest portion of ourselves, the bulk of what we are inside.

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