Emotions are like Natural Resources
When was the last time you contemplated anger, sadness or happiness? I am not a touchy/feely guy but I believe everyone should think about emotions. For my part, I think emotions are like natural resources. Some are abundant, and we’re not sure what to do with them. Others are rare treasures with useful applications. Some appear to be useful, but are actually hazardous materials.
Abundant resources are sometimes more difficult to utilize than rare ones. People don’t know what to do with common things. For example, there is dirt everywhere. There are a lot of things you could use dirt for, but I don’t know anyone who actually uses dirt for anything.
The dirt of emotions is sort of a blah, melancholy kind of feeling. I guess you could call it a feeling of not-feeling. It is difficult to describe, but something I think we all feel quite often. People have trouble knowing what to do when they are neither happy nor sad, nor anything else, but rather just are. In truth, blah is a great emotion. It means there is nothing wrong. No one ever changed the world by feeling normal, but people who feel normal don’t have to do anything. It’s easy to feel normal. Just like sitting in the soil. Sill, there is far more on Earth than just dirt, and far more to like than feeling normal.
Since ancient times, people have stumbled across materials that are uncommon, but eminently useful. The only thing better than finding a useful resource is knowing exactly what to do with it. Present a person with an enormous pile of sand and they will stare dumbfounded. They might even get angry. On the other hand, if you give a person a small amount of something like salt, they will know what they are supposed to use it for. Salt is for flavoring. A pile of lumber can be used to build a house. Iron can be used to make tools. And if a person finds gold, he can use it to get other people to do stuff.
Some emotions are the same way. They are less common than your run of the mill feelings, but people know exactly what to do when they feel them. You don’t feel awesome every day, but when you do you know you are supposed to celebrate. It is uncommon to feel brave, but if you ever do, you will know it is the time to go face down the monsters in your life. Even sadness is one of these rare-but-useful emotions. Healthy people don’t’ feel sad every day. When they do feel sad, they know what they are supposed to do.
Just because something is useful does not mean it is good. Earth is littered with materials that can do amazing things, but are actually quite hazardous. Mercury is a really cool liquid metal. It’s great for making thermometers and felt hats. Don’t touch it though, or it will absorb into your skin and kill you. Asbestos is a natural material that is a great insulator. It will keep the largest buildings warm, but it is easy to inhale and will tear your lungs to shreds. The risk is not worth the reward.
There are many more examples of useful materials that are too dangerous to use. There are also emotions that appear to be useful, but actually just cause more problems. The best example of a hazardous emotion is anger. Some people call it outrage. Others call it righteous indignation. Anger is anger, no matter what it’s called, and it is always a bad idea to succumb to this dangerous emotion.
Of course, people have a right to be angry, but that doesn’t mean they should be. Anger can be used to solve problems, but not without creating more. Anger is just like mercury. Mercury helps to make great felt hats, nice and soft, but at the expense of the hatter’s mind. Anger can get things done, but at the expense of the angry person’s sanity.
There are better insulators than asbestos. There are better ways to deal with problems than through anger.
Emotions are like natural resources. We should treat them the same way. Find uses for the common ones, appreciate the rare ones, and do our best to stay away from hazards.
(Easier said than done.)