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Sunday, 26 October 2008

a methodology for understanding our emotional history?

there have been many good books talking about emotions throughout history - my favourites being Theodore Zeldin's wonderful 'an intimate history of humanity' and Stuart Walton's 'humanity: an emotional history'.

however there has been, (though i would be delighted to be proved wrong), no comprehensive guide to our emotions across time and continent. harbouring ambitions to such a grand task, it's something i think of this blog as a first tentative step towards.

of course a blog is at it's best when it becomes a conversation and not a monologue and all contributions are welcome. with that in mind, anyone who can answer such questions as below with examples gleaned from wherever would be lovely...

how did an emotion express itself in a time and place?

was there a social structure to cope specifically with the emotion?

was it expressed on a social or more personal level?

what sources were there for this expression?

for that matter, am i even asking the right questions?! what else should i be asking?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

something soothing

having slipped into rant mode, i want something more restful before i fall asleep. thie photographer is called steve carter and his photos are lovely. this is rannoch moor near glencoe....

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

obstacles to love?

Watching the tail end of Alan Yentob's 'Imagine' documentary strand, this time on the development of the love story. (If ever there was a case of the self indulgence of an exec then it's this strand. But at least it poses some fun questions now and then).

In it, one of the contributors asked the question 'what are the impediments to love in western civilisation these days?' Adultery is in many ways normalised, and class is supposedly not the barrier it once was - though as Kate Fox points out in her book ' the English' that the English marry less outside of their class these days than they used to 30 years ago.

However, despite Fox's caveat, the point being reasonably made was that none of the barriers to love's consummation seem insurmountable these days and therefore without conflict give no truly powerful and transcendent dynamic to a contemporary love story. In a love story we need a conflict to exist to then to be resolved so love can be seen to triumph.

Leaving aside literary arguments, I couldn't help but wonder. Has love really won, has it truly triumphed o'er all obstacles? If this is so then why does not western society bask in the warmth of that joyous victory where love reigns and its gentle allies compassion, respect and tolerance sit together before a round table of wisdom?

Clearly love has not won out here in the real world. Which means there is a disconnect between what is written and what is.

Rather than a victory for love, I believe we have seen the triumph of desire, of an individualism lauded in philosophy and made beautiful in art reduced to an infantilism of epic proportions in behaviour, and an overwhelming gratification of the senses rendering us senseless.

We have taken our sense of the individual and tied it to desire, leaving us tied in turn by desire as our obsession with its fulfillment consumes ourselves, ignoring the fact that the nature of desire is ephemeral and condemns us to a selfish repetition that is a ugly parody of love.

Monday, 20 October 2008

snapshot of online emotions

have you seen this before?

A site that captures the feelings written about on the web . 'We feel fine' was conceived and created by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. want to know which are the most common emotions? where is the saddest place online? do people online feel more lonely than loved?

ok so this was site was oringinally done two years ago, but i never said i was cutting edge...

skye is filled with light

not mine, i lack such talents. just an image that inspires awe. for those that don't know it's the old man of Storr on Skye. the photographer is the very , very good ian cameron

anyone know what the evolutionary value of awe is? if it was to inspire respect for the environment around us in those early days of first migrations out of africa, then we need some more of it. sadly that feels too neat though. answers most welcome...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

emotions in history

Have you ever wondered about how people felt one thousand years ago, struggling for survival in the dark ages, gnawed at by poverty, disease, and strife? Did they feel lonely? According to Theodore Zeldin in his 'An Intimate History of Humanity', people in India developed a way of coping with loneliness that was akin to the way doctors sometimes treat disease. It was to inoculate themselves against the problem with a deadened form of loneliness - they (although this was sadly only for the men at that time) went on retreat for three months. The enforced isolation faced down the spectre of loneliness and gave people the strength to not be so afraid of an emotion that so troubles us today.

Would it serve any purpose to do something like this for both young men and women today?