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April 10, 2007

Now to continue with the issues of perspective that I very briefly passed over two entries ago, which was in fact the entire reason I got to writing in my xanga in the first place.  Pretty much the whole point of my Thinking About Not Thinking class is to try to understand that paradoxical perspective that all perspectives are empty.  And the one thing I always come back to when I think about that is, belief is completely arbitrary.  The Buddhists are right of course, there is no way we can come to any understanding of the world for sure with only our limited perceptual tools.  We can’t even gather evidence, since all our evidence is filtered through our perception too.  So there is absolutely nothing to distinguish the validity of one belief from the next.  The guy in the reading, Harding, proved that point by claiming he had no head, and there was no way anyone could prove him wrong.  So really, you could believe that the world is run by a flying spaghetti monster, which is indeed a movement that has sprung up on the Gaia discussion boards by people who like to have fun with the idea of religion, and it makes every bit as much sense as anything else.  And so I’m forced to conclude that since all belief is just a delusion, the only point of having beliefs at all is to make us more comfortable.  Whatever delusion we happen to like the most–that’s the delusion we should have.

Where was I going with this?  Okay, I think I’ve got it.  So it’s pretty well laid out what delusion we should have, but of course deluding yourself is not that simple.  To believe something, you kind of have to actually feel it.  People agree on that the whole world round.  The problem here is that feeling itself is a belief.  As I claimed in a previous post, love is simply a belief system, and in fact there are many psychology books that would support me in saying that our emotions are simply our interpretations of physiological responses given the circumstances.  For instance, excitment and anxiety produce the same activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and the only difference between the two emotions is that whatever situation we happen to be in at the time that we feel our sympathetic system acting up, we interpret that action accordingly.  So you first have to believe that feeling is in fact a real phenomenon, then create other beliefs according to those feelings.

And here’s the real problem–I’m not so sure I believe in feeling–at least, not in the sense we generally think of when we talk about feeling.  That is to say, the idea of feeling is another thing people delude themselves with, and I don’t feel that there is feeling.  Because after all, I was very emotional once–too emotional–to the point where I could barely function in society.  Now, I’m not so emotional anymore.  What happened there?  Perhaps I’m just having different emotions from the ones I used to have, and it’s just a natural course of events.  But it seems like to some degree, I am less emotional now than I used to be because I am more in control of my emotions.  Control of emotions.  People use that kind of phrase all the time without batting an eyelash, but it makes so little sense given our idea of what emotions are.  If emotions were capable of being controlled, they wouldn’t be emotions at all–they would simply be planned mental responses to certain events, in the same way that we respond to a math problem by solving it in our heads, then writing down the solution (or by deciding to think about something else, then walking away).  So emotions are just a combination of a thought–“I feel this way”–and a corresponding action; the only difference is that in an emotion, the action is in the autonomic nervous system instead of the somatic.  Is there anything else at all to distinguish emotions from thoughts and actions?  The more I think about it, the more closely related they become.  They are both in your control, but there are still times when you can’t control either one of them.  Just like emotions, thoughts can run rampant without you being able to stop them easily, though it can be done (through meditation, for instance).  And actions, too, are sometimes involuntary, even when they don’t involve emotions–muscle spasms seem beyond our control, even though we can technically control our muscles.  All of these things seem beyond our control at times, yet if we choose to believe in free will (which few people are willing to do without), they are all ultimately the result of choices we have made.  Rather than gather more evidence that emotions are the same as thoughts and actions (which would be kind of ridiculous since evidence of this kind is more or less impossible to obtain), I will simply say it is my view that emotions are thoughts, that this view is as valid as any other, and just go from there.

Now, the obvious question is, if I feel that emotions are just thoughts accompanied by actions, isn’t that a feeling?  That means unless I can change my viewpoint at will, my feeling that feelings are thoughts is more than just a thought.  And I will answer that obvious question with the obvious answer–of course I can change my viewpoint at will.  Feeling gives birth to belief, and if I can change the way I feel (and I’ve already established that I can), I can certainly change anything I believe.  Then why don’t I?  If emotions are, in fact, under our control, then what is it that makes us decide to believe one thing over another?  Certainly not logic–I already pointed out at the very beginning that according to logic, beliefs are utterly arbitrary.  Then what?

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