I attended a conference earlier this week and at the conclusion was asked, “So, how do you feel?” I stared blankly at the individual and managed to awkwardly muster, “I don’t.” This wasn’t a very helpful reply. The individual was attempting to gauge my thoughts on attending an academic program after sitting through a related academic conference, but all at once a recent article rushed into my brain. This is not to say that I had been practicing the guidance of this article in an exemplary way, just that it made me stop and think. Here are some quotes from the article:
Christians consume their religion (how do you like your church/priest/congregation, etc.?). We also consume one another and the ideas that float through our world. The 24/7 news cycle shuttles hours of “talking-heads” (and arguing panels) on any subject that can hold our attention. And as soon as one topic fades, another is found to take its place. “How do you feel about…” has become the word of the moment.
The message which is not so subtle, is that we should feel something about everything. An informed person (thus an “intelligent, discerning person”) will have an informed opinion (feeling) about any topic at hand. We are being trained to feel.
What journalists call “feelings,” the faith calls “passions.”
The passions are not matters of sexual desire per se (“he was filled with passion…”), but are the energies of the soul and body wrongly directed and in an unruly state. Both body and soul are created with desires—desires are necessary to our well-being. But the desire to eat in no way tells us what to eat, when to eat or how much. When “what,” “when” and “how much” tell us what we are doing, the desire has been high-jacked and becomes a passion. We are enslaved. Any desire can be taken captive (and most are). A primary goal of spiritual struggle (ascesis) is freedom from high-jacked desires (passions), a return to sanity and a properly ordered existence….
The fact that we can use the word “feeling” for an “opinion” does much to explain its passionate character. The thoughts that are saving thoughts—thoughts that are of benefit to the soul and its salvation—generally need no level of feeling in order to bolster their value. But our culture, driven by consumerism, majors in the means of motivation. Advertisers and politicians, the shapers of public opinion, learned long ago that reasoning based on the facts is the least reliable motivator. Getting someone to feel that they are reasoning based on the facts is much better—but getting them to feel is the key.
These feeling/thoughts, regardless of how noble or innocuous, are simply noise in the soul.1
The individual who asked my thoughts/feelings about the conference had no ill intent (quite the contrary, in fact), and I probably should have simply indicated my level of readiness for the program (which I did, after the question was clarified). But the question made me think about the above-quoted article, and I wanted to share it with you.