Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Relevance of Plato's Forms to Interpreting Human Emotion

My personality preference per the Myers-Briggs personality test (one of the only useful things ever produced by secular psychology) strongly favors 'intuitive thinking,' which is to say that I don't identify with my emotions. I wouldn't say that I'm "not emotional" or that I "don't feel emotion." On the contrary, in some ways I'm much more sensitive to / aware of my own emotional state because I relate to emotion as something that happens to me. It is not me; therefore, I have to first interpret what I am feeling, and then consciously choose how to act on it. It is very perplexing to me to see others behave according to a philosophy of "I feel like I should do x, therefore I will do x."

Most upsetting is when I have had opportunities to observe young men express a tendency to be turned on by the 'challenge' of seducing a woman who is already in a romantic relationship with someone else. Rather than respecting the people in the existing relationship, such adolescents are even more interested in "taken" women than those who are single. This evidently transcends gender, because it takes two to cheat.

But suppose you don't find pursuing things that are 'off limits' acceptable.

Whether you operate emotionally like the example above, or are more like me, let me offer, for your consideration, a different way of thinking about it. 

I found myself, once, contemplating the meaning of the good feeling I had when I had the opportunity to observe a Christian couple interacting with each other. The following is based on those thoughts:

Rather than focus on the obvious downside (“bummer, one less fish in the sea”), seeing a happy couple in a good relationship should give you encouragement because they, by their very existence, demonstrate that a committed relationship between young Christians can work. The obvious extrapolation of this observation is that "if it works for them, it can work for me." Instead of being disappointed when you see a beautiful woman who’s “taken,” the Spirit enables you to draw enjoyment from their enjoyment by being glad that God is strengthening their bond and using them as a lamp for His glory, and look forward to the day when you can experience the same joy, personally.

I want to make clear that what one might like about a young Christian couple ought to be the fact of their relationship itself and not an attraction to the woman (or man) in the relationship—getting these two confused can lead to catastrophe, and I think that inappropriate approaches to people in relationships, both by Christians and nonchristians, is one of the root causes for a lot of strange relationship problems that exist. I acknowledge that you, as a typical man, might initially recognize the woman as an attractive person. Sin is when that becomes lust—the desire to have HER for yourself. What your Spirit-led emotions [should, of you're growing in holiness] find to be attractive about seeing her, happy, in a loving bond, is not her but the fact that she is happy, the fact that someone like her can be happy, and the fact that there can be such a loving bond that can generate such happiness.
Let me briefly explain Plato’s forms. Plato used his brain of brains to wonder about things like definitions—what makes a thing the thing that it is? Is it arbitrary convention or is there an abstract concept that defines it? Let’s give an example: a chair. What makes a chair a chair? Is it that it has four legs, or three, or five? Is it its shape or its material that it’s made of, or its size? Why do we recognize every new chair that we see as a chair, and not as a completely new thing, since not all chairs are exactly alike? Plato would hold that there is a form called chair that defines “chair-ness,” and describes what it means to be a chair. Chairs are destructible and material but forms are eternally existent and immutable. Every chair possesses the form of “chair-ness,” and that’s what enables us to recognize it as a chair.  This is all a complicated way of getting to my point, which is this: I am attracted to the form of marriage. It is recognizable only in actual examples of marriage, but each actual marriage possesses some quality of “marriage-ness” that points to the form marriage, which is what I’m attracted to and desire.
When I see a happy marriage between two Christians, it is not THEIR marriage that I desire. But there is something in their marriage that points to, that “reminds” me of some quality of the ideal of marriage, and it is THAT that I want. So when I see something in this ideal of marriage displayed in an actual marriage, it gives me hope because it shows that it’s not just an unreachable abstract idea, but a concrete reality that isn’t impossible to achieve—they did, and that means that you can have it too. That’s why I can be turned off to a particular woman upon realizing that she’s in a relationship (this is true. I would almost consider it a spiritual gift, but I suspect it’s just biology or psychology), yet turned on to/by something more abstract about her that isn’t HER, but a quality that she possesses that I yearn for in my own life. I don’t want their relationship. I want a relationship like theirs. And what that really means, in Christian theology, is that I want an earthly relationship with a woman that as closely mirrors the heavenly relationship, that God has with His Church, as possible.

So, young person, when you 'feel something' upon seeing or speaking with other attractive people, do you automatically assume that that's "desire" (for them), and wish to 'follow your heart?' Or do you assume you are experiencing lust, and this produces internal turmoil or a difficulty interacting with other people in the Body of Christ?

Or have I persuaded you of the wisdom of questioning what it is you think you're feeling, and, regardless of conclusion, determining to guide your emotions to focus them, productively, on pure and noble goals, such as motivating you to pursue (or patiently wait for) a beautiful marriage of your own?


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