Respecting emotion (delight, shame, rage, etc)

Are emotions something you are open to experiencing? Exactly how open are you? However open you might think that you already are to emotions, you might experience further opening in a moment.

Remember that whatever emotions develop, you can relax by breathing calmly for a few moments. You might pause briefly now to calmly breath, then continue.

Did you pause yet? Is there anything that you could easily change (like in the room where you are right now) to improve your receptivity to any powerful emotions that may arise? If so, go ahead and change in before you keep reading.
“Suddenly a chariot of fire appeared… and [the Prophet] Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”

2 Kings 2:11

The original text in Hebrew:

יא ויהי המה הלכים הלוך ודבר והנה רכב אש וסוסי אש ויפרדו בין שניהם ויעל אליהו בסערה השמים

“… Behold, a whirlwind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and, in the midst of the fire, something like glowing metal.”

Ezekiel 1:4
Those are two quotations from “the Old Testament,” which is an ancient oral tradition of the Israelites. The spoken words were later transcribed in to Hebrew writing, then translated, then published in the Christian Bible.

So, when you see certain shapes, can the perception of those shapes trigger powerful emotional responses for you? Right now, you are reading words that are composed of sequences of shapes (mostly letters plus a few “punctuation marks”). Perhaps you recognize a particular sequence of shapes and then you recognize each word and finally the meaning of the words together, right?

Once upon a time, there was a clear sequence of words that delivered a message that was very unfamiliar to many people. Imagine that some people were so frightened by the message that they obsessed over a particular word or a particular chapter. Sound familiar?

If disturbed enough, then they might even begin to argue over a few details (rather than calmly discuss the larger whole). They might even panic, dismissing the story as absurd or impossible or simply irrelevant. Then, they would focus on anything else that could distract them from their anxiety about the unfamiliar idea.

But why do some unfamiliar ideas produce curiosity while others produce panic? Why do different people have different reactions to the same ideas (or the same paintings or the same passages of scripture)?

What if someone is paranoid about anyone seeing them display fear? What if certain ideas were perceived as major threats because those ideas triggered fear and terror?

What if a person pretends to be calm and intelligent, but was actually constantly terrified about the possibility of a greater intelligence than their own? What if certain ideas were threatening to their pretense of calm intelligence? What if certain ideas exposed their constant paranoia and anxiety?

Next, imagine a Dutch painter in the year 1710 AD who saw something so fascinating that he included it in his painting. Maybe it was a round object that hovered over a gathering of people as it beamed down 4 shining “pillars.” Maybe the painter even labeled the 4 things “cherubim.”

baptism of christ

The painting above is titled “The Baptism of Christ” (“De Doop van Christus”). It was painted by De Gelder (1645 – 1727), a famous student of Rembrandt.

Next is an even older painting from about 1430 AD called “The Miracle of the Snow,” which features Jesus and Mary as well as some very unusual cloud formations. It was painted by Masolino Da Panicale (1383-1440).


Of course, it is not impossible that the artist actually saw those straight lines of naturally-occurring regular clouds and then simply copied something he saw, right? However, the event depicted is called a miracle not because it is normal, but because it was very surprising.

The “miracle” involved some snow falling in Rome, Italy on August 5th, 352 AD. Snow rarely falls in Rome at all. Snow in August (in the hot summer) would be even more surprising, right?

Now, back to the contents of the Bible, I have found it notable how little reference is made by most Christians to the contents of the Old Testament in particular. In fact, most Christians that I have met seem generally unfamiliar with almost all of the Bible.

Consider that they generally do not know what it says. They certainly do not learn Hebrew and study the original (untranslated) scriptures. They might not read many of the commentaries written in the last few thousand years. They might not be very interested in the Bible and comprehending it. In fact, they might be completely terrified of it. Maybe terror is the perfect result when people of their maturity and intelligence explore the contents of the Bible.

Back to the topic of emotions, how open are you to understanding the response called shame? Shame is a type of fear, right? How open are you to all different types of fear?

Many people value soothing diversions. They can escape for a while from a background experience of anxiety. They can distract themselves with popular trivia, such as the latest political controversy. They may have no actual personal interest in the topic, but they can converse about it for hours. When some new popular scandal is publicized to them (or discovered by them), they will ignore the older, familiar one and focus on the latest issue.

Some may be eager to argue over political reforms that are being negotiated thousands of miles away. Some may focus more on matters within their personal discretion (their direct influence or capacity).

The masses are programmed to focus on subjects that they cannot directly control. They are programmed to be excited, anxious, and even hysterical. The behaviors modeled for them in mainstream media includes a lot of complaining and arguing. They live in context of divisiveness (toward various other people) and condemnation toward perceived threats.

What other ways can someone relate to a perceived threat? First, someone could withdraw for safety. Second, someone could attempt to assess the specific risk and dangers. Third, someone could attempt to neutralize or reduce the dangers, such as by forming an alliance with the threat (or scaring the threat away).

In other words, people could respect a possible threat. They could be cautious about it. They could even pause occasionally to keep relaxed and to breath calmly.

Condemning a possible threat is an attempt to push away or repulse the possible threat. However, when Christians read the Old Testament, will they be terrified and ashamed of what is reported there as the recurring behavioral patterns of Moses or Phinehas or Hashem? What if they get no value through condemning those individuals and those stories?

Then they simply must find other things to condemn. Perhaps they will condemn the very same behaviors in others that are attributed to their own heroes in The Old Testament. However, as long as they do not read the Old Testament, they can just obsess over condemning anything that does not fit the preferences and presumptions that they have been programmed to keep and to protect.

I respect hysteria. I respect panics of condemnation. I respect that people seek to escape from shame through their panics of hysterical condemnation.

Shaming someone directly can result in them withdrawing or fleeing. Repeatedly insulting another person or criticizing them hysterically can drive them away.

However, condemning others will not relieve shame. Condemnation, at least how it is commonly practiced (as in vilification of a few distant targets), may be merely a diversion and thus must be constantly practiced or else the underlying experience of latent shame can suddenly be apparent and that can be quite intense.

So, shaming others hysterically does not end hysteria. You may have even read that somewhere before, right?

This has been a warning and an invitation. The warning is that anyone who is not ready to respect emotion should withdraw and forget this content (at least for a while). The invitation is that if you are ready to respect all emotions while calmly and intelligently studying them, then you can notify me by sending me a comment.


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