Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Emotion, Belief and Philosophy

My brilliant wife, who’s not an intellectual and so knows more than me, said something interesting. She said, “I feel like I’ve won the lottery in being with you for the rest of my life. Winning that lottery is better than winning a million dollars, isn’t it?” I paused. I wasn’t so sure, but not because she isn’t great to be with, but because I couldn’t feel that in my heart. So I imagined feeling it, and was taken aback when I a ball of loving feeling rose up in my chest. Yet, just as quickly it was suppressed. I had the strong sense that if it had come out I would have felt, at least for that moment, that yes, a lifelong, loving relationship was better than a million dollars. For me, a million dollars means a life of freedom from coerced toil and all the time I want to read, think and write; a dream come true. The power of love felt like it would have changed what I valued. A relationship would mean more to me than my free time.

The choice between a significant relationship and all the money I’d need, raised the issue of what I valued in life. They were significantly different positions (although, of course, one could have both). It’s a common story in America, the person who neglects relationships for success. The adherence to one of these two views on what is of value in life and the different belief systems they represent would be based on the release (or not) of a feeling in my heart. My worldview would change based on a shift in feeling.

That’s not say that this would have been a lasting change. But it suggests the power of emotion to alter the course of a life by altering what one believes is valuable in life and valuable to strive for. Feeling and belief about what is important are the ingredients in our philosophies of life. It suggests an emotive basis for our basic orientation to life.

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