January 10, 2006

Another Timed Essay


...for your reading pleasure (hopefully). The subject this time was emotional vs. rational thinking.

(If the following seems rather long to have been written in 30 minutes, that's because it is. I accidentally took 40...)


Despite the dangerously cliched nature of the following statement, it really is the truth; and as it is also what I happen to be writing about, I feel I must begin with it and get it out of the way as soon as possible. So here it is: There are basically two types of people in the in the world -- the emotional thinkers and the rational thinkers. Now, I know that it has been said many times that there are basically two types of people, with the two types being everything from the regenerate and the non-regenerate to the earners and the spenders. And I suppose that there are many such ways to cut mankind in half. But I wish to deal specifically with this one.

Emotional thinking is really not thinking, but rather feeling. A person thinking through their emotions will usually base their decisions on how the result makes them feel, rather than what is strictly right. Faced with a dilemma, they will probably go with the most attractive or easy choice, because to do otherwise would make them feel bad.

I know this makes them sound like horrible relativists, but really, I believe that most people think this way, and not just those who believe that truth is relative. This mindset is rampant amongst modern Christians, especially in their conversion tactics. Most efforts to draw people to the faith have in common an appeal to the feelings that, besides being completely unheard of in Scripture, usually winds up sounding ridiculous in the extreme.

The media also knows how powerful emotional thinking can be, and they use their knowledge well. The struggle for an audience demands that each moment of screen time and each page be gripping, dynamic, and involving enough that the consumer will come back for more, and therefore the media often takes up the emotional side of an issue rather than the rational. This also appeals to the average consumer's love of ease, as well as alleviating the strain on the producers. It is much harder to read (and write) a complex, intelligent piece on what could have been done better in Hurricane Katrina than a story about a kitten rescued from the rubble. I actually saw that on the news one day, and it was to me a saddening testimony to the increasing power of emotional reasoning.

There are dangers in the other extreme, naturally, and very frightening dangers, too. Too great a preference of logic over feeling leads to Margaret Sanger-style brutality and other atrocities. On a narrower plane, and held in check by morality, it can lead to a dull or calculating existence, and a lack of charity and affection for those around us.

Jane Austen wrote an entire book on this subject, Sense and Sensibility. Here we find Marianne Dashwood, the archetypal emotional thinker, running into disaster and turmoil through a denial of common sense and an excess of feeling which, however charming, is shown to be not only dangerous but, paradoxically insensitive through her great sensibilities, Marianne makes life for those around her very painful. Fanny Dashwood (not Elinor, as is sometimes assumed) is a portrayal of the other extreme -- cold, hard, and unfeeling, she causes great trouble and aggravation to those around her as well.

Elinor is the middle ground, and, as usual, the middle ground is in the end the best. Elinor has deep feelings, strong affections, and a greater consideration and attention to the people around her than Marianne, with all her effusiveness, could ever boast. But she also has a practicality and discipline of thought that allows her to carry the many burdens placed on her with grace and dignity.

I've heard it said many times that truth is never found in extremes, but rather in between them. It is also true that it is much easier to go to an extreme than to stay grounded. But it is a balance we all must endeavor to keep if we wish to live fully.

1 comment:

Luther Heggs said...

bravo! jolly good, indeed. I must say that I have never thought of dear Mrs Fanny being the impersonation of Sensibility. I had always rather assumed it was sweet Lucy. Such a good girl, Lucy was...perfect match for Edward...or even for Col. Brandon...