The beauty of human emotion
History is littered with great civilizations that have each permanently changed the course of human culture in mostly positive ways. The following civilizations come to mind as prime examples that have had a profound impact on the world: Florence during the 15th century Italian renaissance, the scientific movement in England from the 17th to the 19th century, the east coast of the United States of America during the industrial revolution, and silicon valley California during the computer technology industry boom. Each of these special civilizations have contributed beautiful marvels of scientific and artistic achievement to the world that have left their indelible mark on the human race. These awe inspiring discoveries and creations often fundamentally alter the way we think and/or conduct a certain aspect of our lives. Each one of these great civilizations was spurred on by a handful of exceptionally brilliant and charismatic people. In the Italian renaissance, it was Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo Da Vinci. During the scientific movement in England, it was the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday. During the industrial revolution in the United States of America, it was Nikola Tesla, Thomas Alva Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford that dragged our collective consciousness forward and into the future. Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have all played key roles in making computerized technology a lot more accessible to the lot of us during this current computer industry boom that we find ourselves in. The question that one cannot help but ponder when considering human accomplishment on this scale is the following: what part of our human psychology acts as the catalyst for the significant contributions that these great people and their respective civilizations have made to our society as a whole?
The psychological makeup of each human being can be roughly divided into two parts: the logical mind and the instinctual mind. The logical or rational mind is the part of the brain that you’ve probably used in the past to follow stated driving directions to get from one location to another. This part of the brain is very adept at solving simple mathematical problems like the multiplication of two numbers based on previously acquired knowledge of the multiplication tables. The instinctual mind is less rigid than the logical mind and it isn’t bound by pure logic and reason. If you’ve ever had an intuitive “gut” feeling (good or bad) about something or someone without knowing quite why or where it came from, then you’ve used the instinctual center of your mind. In prehistoric times, our ancestors were more like animals and thus largely governed by the instinctual/emotional mind. We didn’t have formal languages back then and as a result, we had to rely on subtle nonverbal cues from our cohort and our immediate environment in order to understand each other and hunt down prey for food. As we evolved and developed as a species, the more logical and rational sides of our brains developed. We eventually discovered the scientific method thanks to Sir Isaac Newton, and came to rely more and more on logic and reason as the best means to direct our way of life and solve our problems. To be fair, the scientific method and logical reasoning has helped us accomplish a great deal. A lot of the infrastructure (such as electric power plants, bridges, and water treatment plants) that we as a race have built and refined over many centuries were developed through the application of a heavy dose of reasoning and logic. As we saw more and more of the benefits that our logical reasoning powers brought to our world, the logical mind came to be revered as being far superior to the instinctual or more emotional mind. As a matter of fact, a legitimate argument can be made that we have now come to discourage the use of the instinctual mind largely because of the extremely “messy” scenarios that undisciplined use of this part of the mind can bring about. After all, some of our ugliest experiences like jealousy, infidelity, and the bloodshed of war, are often products of the instinctual mind. Let us think through this for a second with the use of a practical example. There isn’t any logical reason to be jealous of someone who has adhered to proper ethics and worked hard to elevate him or herself; this should actually serve as a source of inspiration. For some illogical reason however, this seems to attract envy from many people which in turn has the potential to yield many unpleasant consequences. Examples such as this make it seem like limiting or completely eliminating the use of the instinctual/emotional mind is the most favorable course of action in order to ensure that we maintain a fair and highly productive society. This makes sense on the surface but is there any truth to the notion that completely eliminating the use of the instinctual mind will result in a much more enriched, well developed, tolerant, just, and liberal society in the long run?
If we are to learn from history (which we humans have a hard time doing), we would assert that the disciplined use of the instinctual mind is actually vital for the development and general enrichment of our society. The great individuals that have championed the growth of key industries, inspiring artistic movements, or transformative ways of thinking all share a few common characteristics. The first obvious common characteristic that comes to mind is exceptional brilliance. There is however a second and perhaps even more important shared characteristic that these luminaries of society share, and it is that of supreme tenacity. Brilliance is self explanatory but it took me a while to truly understand what supreme tenacity really was. Steve Jobs was a supremely tenacious man who refused to give up on his dream even after getting unceremoniously and publicly forced out of the company he started. Bill Gates also developed a reputation for his persistence in solving problems and meeting challenges. Although Bill and Steve were tenacious in their approach, the quintessence of the trait of supreme tenacity would have to be Thomas Alva Edison who tried over 1000 different light bulb filaments before he finally found the one that reliably stayed illuminated for long enough to be used to light up the world. Can you imagine failing at the same exact problem or project more than a thousand times and still managing to find the courage to keep trying day after day until you find the solution that works? Now that my friends is a measure of supreme tenacity.
Given that supreme tenacity is a key trait of many of the great people that have shaped our world, it is natural to wonder where it comes from. This trait cannot possibly come from logic and reason because there is nothing logical about sticking with a problem after 1000 failures like Thomas Edison did on the way to inventing a sustainable light bulb. The logical thing to do in that case is to give up, go home and have a cold beer or two while you do your best to forget all about the project. When asked what kept them going through the difficult times each of these exceptional historical figures faced on the way to their major accomplishments, one word is often inevitably found in the coherent answer they offer in response to this question. That word is love. In a way, this makes a lot of sense since ancient traditions teach us of only two base emotions from which all other emotions arise – love and fear. One certainly would not keep trying ridiculously hard on something they fear, so it stands to reason that love must have been the motivating or driving force behind such herculean efforts. The trait of supreme tenacity that seems by far and away the most important trait for imperious accomplishment was for each of them, born of the deep and intense emotion of love they felt for the subject matter or field they settled on.
In addition to a pure and true love for their subject matter, Michelangelo and company also possessed a strange sixth sense in each of their respective fields that allowed them to see around corners and anticipate the next great thing before anyone else. The best approximation of this sixth sense is the general and sometimes uncanny awareness that animals have of their surroundings. You know how you can’t ever seem to surprise your dog because they just instinctively know when you are around regardless of how quietly you try to sneak up on them? This sixth sense that masters possess shares a startling resembles to that animal like instinct for general awareness albeit on a more consciously intellectual level. The sixth sense that allows for astounding accomplishment approximates the speed and immediacy of animal instinct and is at the same time informed by years of study and deliberately logical intellectual thought. In a way, this power is a hybrid child of both the logical and instinctual mind. The logical side of the mind informs and refines the instinct, and the instinct directs the effective use of the logical mind in return. In the psyche of true masters, the two minds are fused… working in perfect harmony with each other. It should be emphasized here that none of these luminaries were born with this great power. Rather, it was something they all had to develop through years of hard labor and “monk like” dedication to their respective crafts and the development of their respective minds. Many agree that without the strong emotion of love for their work, it would have been virtually impossible to sustain the “monk like” dedication required to reach such heights of mental power.
Each of us humans are emotional creatures to varying degrees of intensity based on our individual character and mental makeup. Our emotions have been an integral part of our human psyches since the dawn of time. Although our modern culture tends to demonize a show of emotion in many shapes and forms because of the mini catastrophes that often result due to careless use of the instinctual mind, history tells us that this is a mistake because almost all the technological and artistic marvels that we are privileged to consume today are children of a deep emotional pull of some sort. Even the unforgiving process of evolution has largely left our emotions alone as natural selection has not yet rid the planet of those of us who feel through instinctual mind. This is a very strong and telling sign of the importance of human emotion.
The word emotion comes from an abbreviation of the phrase “energy in motion”. Emotions are powerful, and like all great power, must be wielded with the appropriate care and channelled properly for maximum productivity. Learning to channel emotions effectively is a lifelong endeavor that is of the utmost importance for the continued development and advancement of our species. Till next time beautiful fellow members of the human race… take care your yourselves and each other.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” ~Albert Einstein
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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