Monday, October 17, 2005

Devoid of Feelings?

I watched a movie last night called "Equilibrium". In a way it was similar to Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451", in that books are one of the items that are banned from society.

In the movie, there has been a third world war. World leaders believe that man's emotions are to blame for the inhumanity to mankind, and fear that a fourth world war will destroy all of human life. Therefore, the new leaders set out to destroy emotions by banning books, art and music. The citizens must also take a mood-neutralizing drug known as "Prozium". Anyone caught with banned items or showing any emotion at all - through not taking the Prozium - is immediately incinerated. Christian Bale plays a character who is known as a Grammaton Cleric. The Grammaton is an elite team of members who help capture offenders and destroy banned items. Bale's mission in the film is to locate The Underground, a group of rebels.

Bale accidently drops and breaks one of his Prozium injections, and begins to feel emotions. He doesn't want to let go of these new feelings. This brings me to what I want to talk about.

In my search for spirituality, I have run across a belief that says thoughts can be a hindrence to enlightenment. I am assuming this goes with feelings as well. I think the point of these beliefs is to let go of any type of attachment so that one can experience Nirvana, or enlightenment. Thoughts and feelings lead to attachment. Attachment, therefore, keeps us from becoming enlightened. Or so they say. I am not sure I can cope with this.

How can I not let my heart soar to hear Beethoven? How can I keep from falling in love with a book? How can my heart not break to see a stray animal? How can I not look at and admire Botticelli's Primavera over and over again? I can't. I simply must feel these emotions. What would I be without emotion? Do thoughts not cause emotions, and do emotions not cause thoughts? You can tell me to get rid of thoughts, but then I might not feel.

Do you who have no thoughts also not have any emotions? How do you separate the two? How can you live without thoughts but still feel emotion? Or do you?

Please let me know what you think.


George Breed said...

When your heart soars to hear Beethoven, you are not attaching to any one note. You move as it moves, emote as it emotes, always moving, always present. No attaching. Fully in the everchanging here.

Emotion and thinking rises and falls, appears and disappears. Fully felt. No clinging.

Cling, cling, cling goes the folly.

Aaron said...

I saw the movie earlier this year. [SPOILERS] An interesting issue was brought up at the end, when the villain was trying to save himself by claiming that he had feelings just like the hero. It seemed that it would have been smarter if he'd claimed to have no feelings, and was thus just an automaton who was following the rules. A cog in the machine.

Anyway, I think this raises the question of whether emotions are required in order to have moral responsibility. Are emotions an essential part of free will and choice? Etc.

Sophia said...


But do you think it's OK to become attached to the combination of notes? A full piece of music? Just as art is one stationary object, is it OK to become attached to it?

Some would tell me that things like this would keep me from becoming enlightened. I'm supposed to let go of worldly attachments. At least, according to what they say.

Sophia said...



But as soon as Grammaton Cleric John Preston entered "The Father's" office, he could tell right away that he was a "sense offender". The room had a beautiful chandelier and art on the walls. There would have been no way for The Father to claim having no emotions once Preston had witnessed the office.

I think moral responsibility stems from reason. Most of us can reason as to what is good and bad, so I believe that emotions therefore are an essential part of free will and choice. Otherwise, an automaton could kill without giving it second thought.

Blow'n in the wind said...

Can you love everything equally...the child's brightly colored dress and the dolphin captors?

...knowing that all action , all illusion will eventually lead one to understand the truth?

Sophia said...

Hi Blow'n,

I know I'm supposed to love the dolphins' captors as equally as I do others, but it almost feels impossible. I can tell myself I do, but do I lie to myself? After all, it is ignorance on the part of the captors. Should I dislike them because of their ignorance?

Anyway, what do you think?

George Breed said...

Attached to a note,
attached to a combination of notes,
attached to a piece of music,
attached to all music,
attached to not attaching,
attached to the thought of not attaching,
attached to the idea that "enlightenment" exists & can be obtained,
attached to what they say,
attached to what one is supposed to do,
attached to endarkenment,
attached to the idea that there is a problem,
attached to sending comments on blogs....

What was the question now?

Sophia said...


I guess I'm attached to more things than I'd like to admit. So basically, it's probably impossible to not be attached to anything. Because, well, it's an attachment just to try to not be attached! Oy vey! It's a conundrum!

George Breed said...

Attaching is holding on.
Release is letting go.
Continuously letting go.
Allowing go.

Get ready!
Get set!

Sophia said...


You're great. I really like your upbeat personality. I'm thankful for your comments. :)

It's funny, because I'm definitely attached to blogging and leaving comments!

Zareba said...

I am glad I found your blog. I found it very interesting. Thank you.


Sophia said...

Hi Zareba,

That is such a nice thing to say. I'm glad you've found it too! I'll go check out your blog! :)

RedBark said...

Wow! Seems like we have a genuine esoteric forum going on here.

I think George has got it right.

I might add that consiousness does not mean limiting yourself. It implies the ability to choose what you want for yourself.

It would be great to go to a concert and choose to focus your attention on the beauty of the music rather than the guy tapping his feet in the next row, or a mistake that the musicians made.

Wouldn't you like to be able to release your feelings toward the dolfin captors so that you could get on with enjoying the beauty of the dolfins? What good are negative feelings? Not to say that one can not take action, as you did by refusing to support the practice. Negative emotions are not required for this. Rather they are often a substitute for responsible action.

From one point of view it is a matter of replacing unintentional thoughts and feelings with intentional thoughts and feelings.

The concious person would have much more time to spend with worth while feelings once he lets go of the worthless ones.

Consiousness also implies that one is aware that he is not his feelings. They are just happing to him. There is no harm in enjoying a feeling or thought if you understand that it is not you. The harm is when our self-awareness is replaced by thoughts and feelings. Then we do not exist as a conscious being.

Very good question Stacey.

Blow'n in the wind said...

Forget about "supposed to", do you love the dolphin captor?

The "impossibility" arises when one takes ONEself to be the body, separate from other bodies or, "others".

As you identify with your body, you believe that you are in control of what happens, that , "others" are therefore in control of what they do, but look around you, observe all the acts of cruelty everywhere and everyday and find the sourse of those.

Are you the body that you have always assumed yourself to be. Or is this an assumption made long ago, a conclusion that's been accepted without any investigation?

What if that dolphin captor is also you.

Are unkind acts not simply the result of unconsciousness?

I think the key is to discover who you REALLY are...then you might find that you actually have sympathy for the dolphin captor where you thought you had disdain.

Unconsciousness is widespread, can we blame someone for acting unconsciously?

Is it still true, that you, "admire those who are different"?

Blow'n in the wind said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zareba said...

This one is for George...I tried 3 times to leave a comment on your blog, it froze 3 times. Either you are the coldest seeker I have ever encountered or one of us is having a glitch in the system. What I wanted to say to you was I found your method of expression very interesting, but have some concerns that if you get your tongue too far out in that cheek, you could be in danger of biting it off. ...Z (smiling broadly)

Sophia said...


But wouldn't hearing the sound of the guy's tapping toe, or the mistake of one of the musicians, be an exercise in awareness? Shouldn't we try to be more aware, as opposed to less aware? And the more we are aware, the less limits we are placing on what we choose to focus on? If we are more aware of our surroundings, wouldn't it be true that we are less aware of ourselves?

The problem I'm having is finding the halfway point - the point that says I have enough feeling and thoughts yet enough outter-awareness at the same time.

Sophia said...

Hi Blow'n,

Yes, truth be told, I love the captor. I feel sorry for them because of their unconsciousness, but I still love them. Just like now when I look back on my life and love others who have wronged me in my past, and hope that those who I have wronged can love me, too.

I guess you could say I still resort to believing myself to be the body I've always assumed myself to be, and like you've said, have given little investigation into it. It's the first instinct of my ego.

I can't blame someone for their unconsciousness. After all, that is where I believe all evil to come from - the unconsciousness of who people really are. I, too, amd still unaware of this. I can say that I am conscious of who I am, but am I really? It's easy to say something, but much more difficult to actually experience it.

So, to sum all this up, I do still love the captors, even though I disagree with what they're doing. Therefore I think it's safe to say that I still "admire those who are different".

RedBark said...



I am happy that you think so well. I think that in time you will understand everything well enough, then you will have to start to work. :)

Yes, taping could be used for an exersize in awareness. But the reason for going to the concert was to hear the music and experience the emotions that it evokes.

When someone is tapping, a typical(automatic) response is, "It is not right that he is taping while everyone is trying to enjoy this very touching concert". Along with many other thoughts and some negative emotions. This is no longer awareness of tapping or awareness of the concert. It is thoughts about tapping. There is an internal dialog(aka imagination) going on that displaces awareness.

Here is an exersize in awareness. Try to be aware that "You" are sitting in a chair right now.

This is awareness. It is rare and precious, even for those who seek it.

Self-awareness is required for external awareness because without self-awareness we will not notice when imagination starts to take over and displaces awareness. It is possible to be aware of one's self and something else at the same time. But it is hard to remember to keep doing it.

You can try it now.

Be aware that you are here, feel the weight of your body in your chair, and then at the same time be aware of the sound of your computer. It is a strange sensation.
How long can you do it? If you can do it for fifteen seconds you may feel something different.

Rob said...

Stacey I think you worry too much! The key to Enlightenment is SIMPLICITY.

Trying to free oneself from attachments is like trying to lift oneself off the ground by pulling on one's shoelaces. Instead one needs to be shown how to connect to the transcendental and then automatically other attachments become less.

Thoughts and feelings are healthy providing they serve us rather than enslaving us. Through meditating I can distance myself from them a little. Here is a modified version of a poem I wrote some years ago:

Our feelings and thoughts are fine servants,
but they can drive us quite up the pole!
Servants are best kept at some distance,
for they would just love to seize control!

Sophia said...


It's funny that you've used the example of the tapping toe and the errant musician. On Rob's blog today, he wrote a post about the state of the concert hall in 18th century London. It was noisy!

Sophia said...


Your poem is great! A fine example, and metaphorically quite true. Thoughts are slaves, and yet sometimes they make slaves of us.

I sure can't pull myself up using my shoelaces. I guess I was hoping someone else could do it for me. :) Well, I'll just wait until I can connect. Or I should say if I connect. Then all else should happen naturally.

By the way, I think I get my worries naturally from my father. He is a genuine worry wart.

Castor said...

The Man-child

It happened
A man prayed
While a child played
The child played the Man
And the man followed the child
The man went praying
To the child playing
The child played with the man
And deceived the man
But the man found out
And locked the child to pray
And the man went out to play.
E. A. S. T.

It's a poem I wrote some years ago
after becoming a member of an obscure religious cult. The original copy I threw away including a book of poems I wrote
while recuperating from my ordeal.
It could have been longer, and the words were probably a bit different. This is all I can recall.
This poem is really about my terrible experience with religious brainwashing, which started even before I became a cult member and eventually became the spiritual leader.
It's an experience that led me to seek truth and enlightenment outside the Christian Church.
Long story short, what did I learn from the experience?
Traditional religions and systems
are forms of brainwashing, which inspite of their very long existence are quite immature and childish. The only way to find out if any of these ancient ways or path have meaning or validity is to think for oneself.
How does one think for oneself, when one is already indoctrinated or brainwashed? Who is really thinking all these beliefs and dogmas? Is it not the system or tradition itself, thinking for us?
So how does one discover the truth, if it exist, without being biased by any concept or idea?

Castor said...

"Do you who have no thoughts also not have any emotions? How do you separate the two? How can you live without thoughts but still feel emotion? Or do you?
Please let me know what you think."
It seems at the moment that my mind is free from beliefs and concepts that it is with reluctance that I start answering these questions. Anyway they invite me to find out what I really think right now:
It seems very difficult to separate thoughts from emotions.
Thoughts causes emotional reactions to things ideas and experiences. Thoughts are almost always coloured by emotions, which leads us to the second question. And I think without thoughts you can't feel emotions.
But is there such a thing as thoughtlessness? Or a thoughtless moment. If so, is it a good thing to be thoughtless?
But I think a more important question is really: should we suppress our thoughts and emotions?