A Philosophical Evening with the Roaches
The downside of books made of an antique technology called paper is that they can not be read in dim light. I was reminded of this fact one evening when the day’s light ran out as I read outside in a hammock. My brain, however, operates just fine without light, and I continued to swing back and forth as I pondered Deep Thoughts.
A cool breeze blew as I gently rocked back and forth in the dusk, and my mind was lulled into a comfortable philosophical train of thought. I wondered at the miracle of God’s creation and the meaning of life as the birds gently chirped around me and I heard the slight rustlings of nature all around. What a romantic way to spend an evening.
But wait, slight rustlings? In my sleepy contentedness I pondered the possibility of snakes or giant garden spiders in the bushes next to the hammock, and was comforted in the fact that I was suspended in air and snakes can not fly. After thinking happily about life for a few more minutes, I realized that the rustlings, instead of growing fainter as the snake slithered away, were increasing in volume and frequency. I finally roused myself from my intellectual stupor and rolled over to see a dozen roaches crawling around on the dead leaves underneath the hammock. I decided that I had had enough deep thoughts for the evening and went inside. My mind shifted at an alarming pace from the universe to supper.
I was having a perfectly nice evening thinking deep thoughts until those roaches came out for their evening stroll and broke my philosophy. What is the reason for our perceptions to be shaped by our surroundings? Why does a sunset make you happy and contemplative? Why do muggy days make you feel lazy and overcast days make you sad? Emotions can be useful in situations such as emphasizing with friends and other such human matters, but why do they play such a role in our rational decision making?
If you grew up as a child inclined to overthinking, as I did, when you grew up you may have been surprised to discover the emotional basis the world is built on. Irrational behavior prompted by emotion displays itself all over our lives. Marketers study and hack our natural emotions to trick our brains into deciding to spend our hard earned cash on things we don’t need or want. Our opinions of books and movies we previously enjoyed are lowered as we hear our friends’ criticisms. The press gains page views by playing havoc with our envy and fears by alternatively covering the extremes of celebrity gossip and world terror.
Many humans reject the thought of artificial intelligence and protest against its unemotionality, for after all, emotion is a major factor of what separates us from machines. Whenever a scifi movie comes out that defends the AI’s point of view, it is always because the AI has developed a personality and has feelings. We humans yearn for emotional connection to those around us and reject people we view “cold” and “standoffish.”
Is our susceptibility to our material surroundings and emotion bias a strength or a weakness?
I believe that all types of people and personalities were created to compliment each other, and emotion is a part of who we are as a species. Some people may be more biased to emotion than others, and that is how things should be.
Emotions bother me the most when they're negative. A comfort to me when I’m experiencing uncomfortable feelings is that emotions are just chemicals in your brain. Negative emotions such as depression can be caused by life events, but they can also just be a physical problem that can be fixed. For example, when I eat gluten, I turn into Marvin, the depressed robot from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I panic about work, feel like a lazy loser, and wonder why I try. When I get like this, I remember that gluten is the enemy that temporarily took away my sanity, and I will get better, as I always do. I try to objectively realize that my life isn’t actually that much worse than normal, even while downing food and binging Netflix by myself in the middle of the day in attempt at not thinking about anything depressing (which is everything when I’m glutenated).
If anything can really be concluded about the age-old debate of emotion vs logic, I would say this. Enjoy the good emotion and figure out the bad. If the negative feelings come for a reason, figure out why, accept them if they’re healthy (for example grieving over a death), or identify the source if they’re unhealthy. For example, pain is practicable although uncomfortable, since it is your body’s way of saying you need to fix whatever’s hurting. Perhaps negative emotion serves a similar purpose, while positive emotion serves as a reward for experiencing or accomplishing something good.
Even if you distrust emotion, allow yourself to enjoy the happy times even though everything will never be perfect. Relax during those calm evenings when you feel the warm-and-fuzzies about the universe and how blessed you are to be a part of it.
Or perhaps this theorizing is just pretentious blabber, and I’m simply an INTP who fancies herself a human robot trying to rationalize an annoying and inherently illogical human trait.
Either way, I hope you enjoyed these thoughts.