want vs. like

Somewhat related to epistemology (but I’m not going there now) is the question of how emotion & desire can relate truth or moral guidance.

It is often assumed by we post-Romantics that ‘doing what you want’ is about the most sinful or dangerous thing imaginable.  ‘Doing what is right’ is better, we say; …and if what is ‘right’ happens to be what you want, then all the better.  And if what is ‘wrong’ is what you want, then well… either do it quietly or privately or not at all – if you can.

I believe, however, that desires are not all bad.  I actually wonder if what we call ‘bad desires’ are just ‘good desires’ that have been distorted, broken, suppressed or otherwise damaged.

But in addition to this, I think we can distinguish between deep, lasting and true desires (‘wants’) and shallow, fleeting and deceptive desires (‘likes’).  For example, at a spur of the moment, now, in my face kind of level, I ‘like’ a lot of things which I don’t actually ‘want’ at another, long run, after the fact, in my gut kind of level.  Examples can easily be multiplied.

I wonder if we often shortchange ourselves by loading up our lives with ‘likes’ instead of carving out time, money, energy, opportunities or space for the ‘wants’.  We look back at our afternoon, day, week, month, year or life and we lament that we didn’t get what we deeply ‘wanted’ (i.e. lasting, healthy relationships), even if we may well have quite often got what we ‘liked’ (i.e. this or that must-have gadget).

Sorting out the wants from the likes may well not be an exact science – who would ever thing it would be? – but I think we intuitively ‘know’ how to do the sorting.  Here’s to us doing it better.

true feeling

Just watched The Changeling with my wife (‘endured’ would be the term she’d use!), and really enjoyed it.  There are some real gut-wrenching moments in there, which I won’t elaborate on here.

One thing I found interesting was the particular (and familiar) feeling of deep satisfaction and relief I (and my wife – and anyone with a pulse) when the ‘code 12’ women were freed from the mental hospital, and when the lawyer offered to defend her pro bono. It’s just that familiar, deep-seated, very human feeling we all get when the right thing is done – when a horrible injustice is righted.  The opening scene of Amistad, where the slaves on the slave ship break loose and take over the ship, though violent and bloody, also provoked that same feeling – that kind of fist-pumping ‘yeah!’ feeling. Emotions aren’t infallible, and in terms of epistemology I don’t think any source of knowledge is (reason, logic, etc.); but sometimes they (emotions) can be very, very good conductors of Truth.

And I love how immediate, every-day, down-to-earth, and universal these kinds of emotions are.  No philosophy degrees needed here, no deep pondering or reflection, just deep, gut-level ‘knowing’ that – though we don’t know everything – we know that we know that we know ‘this is right’.