The idea of escaping emotion has been around since the starting of civilization. Emotions can often be negative and so we will try to be objective or practice other methods of escaping emotion such as meditation. The need to escape emotion is usually always used in the context of escaping bad emotions such as fear or sadness because no one really wants to escape joy unless they are in a phase of their life where they are seeking purpose.
The most interesting thing about escaping emotion is how often we do it but we just don’t recognize it. I remember when I was a child and someone asked me how I was feeling and I responded truthfully, “I don’t really feel anything at all.” This was followed by, “Are you feeling alright?” I quickly learned that the proper response to that question was that I feel good or that I am okay. I think everyone can relate to this. How many times have you been asked how you are feeling and responded with, “I am good” when you knew that wasn’t entirely truthful? Why do we do this?
Humanity is obsessed with binary choices. Something has to be good or evil, wrong or right, and happy or sad. When we interact socially with people there is usually emotion present such as excitement or regret. When we interact with fellow employees over work tasks there is almost never emotion involved unless there is some kind of problem. I imagine there are people reading this blog right now that are stateless. They are neither happy or sad and if they were to really meditate on that for a moment it might actually make some people feel uncomfortable. In fact an unemotional state is where we spend a significant amount of time but we hardly reflect on it. This is because in an unemotional state there is no need to reflect, you have a goal or an objective of some type that needs to be accomplished and this might be something as simple as the need to go to the washroom.
Imagine you are driving down a long high way where the scenery was completely the same and suddenly you come to screeching to a stop to let ducks cross the road. If the trip took hours, it wouldn’t matter, you would only remember the emotional state you were in when the ducks crossed the road. When you reflect on your state of no emotion it might feel like you’re not living. However, after awhile you will realize that this state can be utilized to have moments of clarity.
Emotions are a reactionary force to try and get us to do something to compensate for some kind of stress or make us recognize lack of stress. That said, you are capable of interacting with the universe in a non-reactionary way. So how do you voluntarily escape emotion? That is the simple part. Unlike meditation this state is easy to get into once you recognize it. Let me explain. Odds are you have never really reflected on this state you enter on a regular basis, but now that you know it exists all you have to do is catch yourself in the act. Once you catch yourself in the act you can reflect on it and once you know how it “feels” you can gain the ability to turn it on and off. When you enter this state it might allow you to make better choices then to simply follow your emotions which almost always have a much shorter term horizon.
We see our world through emotion and this is unavoidable. Our emotions tell us when there is something wrong with our lives and helps us to figure out how we want to react to different events in our lives. The common belief is that our primary motivator and decision making process should revolve around obtaining happiness. Our emotions, however, can be our biggest deceivers such as short term highs that result in longer term negative consequences like the emotional catastrophe that the use of highly addictive drugs can bring on.
In Naturalization & Happiness I talked about how after one year a person becoming a paraplegic and a lottery winner were equally happy. The biggest deception that can occur is when life moves someone to a new state in their life (The Flow) and it is so superior to their previous life that they become elated and stagnant. I met a man who was pushed into the flow by his father having a stroke and he was compelled to move. He lost his good paying job at a corrections facility and all his previous friends. He kept repeating to me how it was so strange that life can just suddenly make a complete turn. Though he was making less money he, throughout the conversation, kept insisting he was more happy now. Yet he talked very little about his own life and instead talked about his brother who he helped put through aviation school and was now making almost twice what he was. The entire conversation was marked by him trying to convince me of all the reasons his life was better now but it only convinced me that while it may be better he was still lacking something.
Happiness is a funny thing because it doesn’t really care about long term goals but instead forces us to live contextually. If you are both hungry and thirsty, you may become happier when your thirst is quenched but it won’t last. Happiness is a valuable tool for evaluating our present situation but it shouldn’t necessarily be the tool for planning longer term goals which could provide significantly more moments of happiness then your present trajectory. We tend to let our momentary happiness guide our relationships as well by staying in relationships that ultimately we know, consciously or unconsciously, will not last. Marriages that end in divorce don’t necessarily start sad or in turmoil but it is because society teaches us incorrectly. We are bombarded constantly regarding the context we are in with messages like you only live once or the glorifying of people that have won a lottery in the form money or otherwise in the media.
If possible, we should all avoid living in contexts. This can be very difficult and sometimes feel impossible. Both Bill Gates and Buddah in their stories share the common characteristic that they both chose to not live in a predefined context or conform to what everyone else expected them to do. Not conforming to a context might not be the greatest for your immediate happiness but can ultimately lead to significantly more happiness down the road for both yourself and others.
In Sanjay Gupta’s book chasing life a survey was done and it was discovered the majority of people would prefer to have a shorter life at full quality of life then to have a longer life with flickering at the end. Quality of life was seen as more important then length of life to the majority of people. Imagine for a moment that you were given two options and once you picked one you would forget you made the choice. The first choice is that you would live the next two weeks of your life doing incredible amazing things and by the end you will have the thought, “I could die now because I have done so much” and you actually did die. The second option is you could live to be 80 but you will never do anything exciting and instead you will report to the same job, doing the same thing every day, with a possibility that something might interesting will happen but nothing ever does.
Most people choose the second option when deciding to make choices with their life but when it is said objectively the first option seems much preferable. There is an idiom that is constantly used and that is, “live your life like you will die tomorrow.” I don’t necessarily recommend this because you will probably find yourself the next day without a job and having set all your possessions on fire. The way you should live life is the way it truly is, you will die. It doesn’t matter how healthy you eat, how well you take care of body, or even if they find a cure for aging. You are going to die. Chasing life is a marathon which doesn’t have a finish line. This doesn’t mean that you should purposefully do things that will shorten life span, but you shouldn’t waste so much time on it that it replaces the life you could live.
Life shouldn’t be about doing the things that we are having robots do. The human experience is so much more then selling another trinket. Elolight is about creating improved sunsets, not contributing to a production complex only. One of the easiest ways to discover life is to purposefully get lost. Getting lost safely can lead to a world of discovery. You might feel getting lost will reduce your life span, but I can assure you that if you never get lost you will certainly never find anything.