Monday, January 16, 2023

The ruin of a perfectly good feeling. . .

There is nothing wrong with emotion or feelings.  Sentiment is part of God's good creation -- even if sin has left its mark on God's good and perfect gift.  The problem is that our feelings or emotions have become the center and ground of who we are as people and the most significant influences on our answer to the question of who we are.  

It is on the basis of feeling that one is asked by modern society to decide if something is moral or immoral, if something is true or false, if someone is straight or gay or any variation of the two, and if the body fits the gender or the gender fits the body.  I could go on.  There is no end to what is being asked of our emotions.  What we are asking of our emotions, however, is the ruin of a perfectly good feeling.  When we take anything good and press it into service beyond its ability or capacity or make it the sine qua non of our lives, we tend to ruin it for everything that it was created to be and do.

Sentiment has become sentimentalism.  Sentimentalism has become the practice of making all one's decisions primarily or solely on the basis of someone's subjective feelings or emotions.  Sentimentalism has become the most important thread of the fabric of everything in our modern lives.  It is literally everywhere.  It is in the way we look at ourselves and our bodies and define our identity.  It is in the judgment we render on what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, and what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.  It is literally the prime force in how we govern ourselves, how we seek companionship, how we communicate, how we purchase (and therefore how what we purchase is advertised), and how we educate and what we decide to teach to those whom we educate.  We all know it is the force of the unsocial social media but it has also become power behind the mainstream media of news and entertainment as well.  

We ask children to tell us if they feel male or female or the nature of their attraction to others as if we were asking them if the felt like chicken nuggets or pizza for supper.  We communicate what happens in our world less with the facts than with our feelings about the impact of what happened (watch any interview and see if our political leaders are asked about what they think or believe or what they feel).  We have turned the obnoxious idea of likes on Facebook into the driving force that defines whether retailers are successful or not.  We have rearranged the educational system so that we impart less the facts of our history and sciences than we do the personal preferences and render a verdict on the justice of that history and science according to modern cultural values.  But the pressure that all of this has on our emotions has not been freedom but stress, depression, fear, uncertainty, and isolation.  We feel more than we think and it has reaped a sour fruit in our lives.  Political division, discomfort with our selves, discomfort with others, more noise than debate, the demonizing of our enemies -- these are the fruits of taking a perfectly good thing like a feeling and ruining it by making it rule our reason, our choices, our decisions, our trust, and our lives.

The more we have gotten in touch with our feelings, we might have expected more self-satisfaction, contentment, and peace.  But feelings can seldom contribute to such things.  Instead, they erode our satisfaction with our selves and our lives, they turn our attention to our discontent (which is a thousand times easier to figure our and enumerate), and they disrupt our peace.  In the Church, all this fuss about feelings has made doctrine into a dirty word, Jesus into a mere avatar for the Cosmic Christ, and detached truth from our ideas of God or what He has done.  In the process, the Church has been emptied not only of men but of anything concrete and real (apart from our feelings) and left us with a Jesus who must approve of everything in order to be relevant to us.  Now we are more content to be spiritual without being religious because we are sure that religion with all its attention to doctrine, truth, and morality will only spoil the mood. 

If you thinking now I am probably an unfeeling brute, you are probably right.  Although I do have feelings, I reject the tyranny of emotion to define me or God and everything in between.  It seems a shame to take a perfectly good thing like a feeling and make it do what it cannot.  Worse, it only heaps on the pile of disappointment and bitterness that is the ruin of us, especially now.  We are governed by people who are led by their feelings more than facts, elected by people who make their political judgments on the basis of their feelings instead of facts, and go to churches that make us feel good but reject doctrine and truth as a basis for judging.  And we are popping more pills, smoking more joints, drinking more booze, and indulging our selves in a thousand different ways in a search for happiness and contentment.  The poisoned fruit of sentimentalism is relativism.

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