My last wee little essay, my last journey into things esoteric and weird where I explored some of the definitions of the word optimism, used some phrases I’ve thrown at you before. I talked about states of being, and emotional states, and the varied differences between them, as well as those I believe are natural as opposed to forced. This entire journey is one big exploration for me, so I forgive you for sometimes being confused since I often am as well. I thought I might explore the semantics of these things in a bit more detail so we can all grasp this complicated crap a bit better together.
Now, these are definitions that I use to make certain distinctions in my thoughts on other subjects, and may differ from yours or perhaps Merriam-Webster’s. I’ve never made a claim to know what I’m doing, keep that in mind here, and while taking a squizz at anything else I publish in this space. I’m just as lost sometimes as the next guy, but actively seeking not to be.
State of Being
This is a common one I use, and according to the esteemed folks over at Merriam-Webster I could drop the last two words because the first is defined, at the top of the list anyway, as a mode or condition of being. I still like to tack it on, though, because it allows me to use it in a more detailed fashion to discriminate better between that and other things. As I’ve used it so far, my personalised definition might be:
A consistent condition of the mind (heart, soul, spirit), maintained over time and outside of the normal transient emotional states we may experience daily. A median, foundational place about which those others revolve and can return to. It is based on our actions and persistent general attitudes regarding ourselves and our interactions with the world, and may be healthy or not, draining or not, and can be forced or mostly naturally occurring.
For the most part, in our culture, it tends to be that last thing because nobody ever thinks about it all that much, and we get whatever we get. That is a real shame, because it’s so important to our overall well-being, and, without some thought, the natural ones can be as bad as the forced ones.
How can it be naturally occurring if we have to think about it, though? Riley, you’re confuzzling me even more now.
Fear not, gentle adventurer. Above, I mentioned something about actions and attitudes and touched on how they affect our state of being. We can control those a lot easier than the state itself (the forced kind) and with far less effort. For example, one I talked about the other day is a conscious choice I made not to be negative on Facebook anymore. It was both an action, and a change in attitude. Not being something saps far less energy than working to be something else, and this choice has allowed me, over time mind you, to settle naturally towards a state of being that I call my personal calm. I’ll never be the Dalai Lama, and even then I imagine he can get just as annoyed as any of us when his tea is cold.
State of Emotion, or Emotional State
In the past I have, and probably will again so prepare for it, said that all of our myriad cadre of emotions are perfectly normal and natural and exist each for its own purpose. Fear, anger, anxiety, happiness, joy, lust, and all the rest (Gilligan’s Island, when they forgot to mention the professor and Mary Anne in the opening song) are not good or bad in and of themselves. We got ‘em, our dogs have ‘em, every living thing with a brain larger than a ganglion has them and I bet even then insects do to some degree. This is what I think of them, and the state of experiencing them:
A transient condition, generally both instigated and limited by circumstance, that is by design not meant to last but only fulfill its purpose in the moment and move aside for the next one. It is a momentary change in our more persistent state of being that, when it does not go away as it’s meant to, morphs into a state of being that is unnatural and unhealthy.
You might believe that some emotions are more pleasurable than others, but we sometimes seek out things that help us experience those that many consider negative. We cry at sad movies, hide under the covers while reading a Stephen King novel, or bungee jump from a bridge (not me no siree thank you very much). Why we do these things is beyond the scope of this little essay, but we do them and you know we do. Art in any form is meant to inspire an emotional reaction and we see it in works created by others as we do in our natural surroundings. Things get weird, though, when an emotion wears out its welcome and refuses to go away, like that second cousin visiting over the holidays.
It’s because of this that I bristle at memes (or Bobby McFerrin songs) promoting happiness as a valid goal to work towards. It’s not, okay? Let’s just leave that right there.
Some examples I’ve mentioned here have been explored and will be again I’m sure, as I think more on them or find myself learning from others. Right now, though, I think I might put on some Pharrell Williams and start dancing in my living room like a crazy person because I’m happy.
For now, anyway.