05 January 2018

In Which We Invoke Henny Youngman

The 9th of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

Leaving the opening night of E.T., a friend said, "I feel like all of my heart strings have been pulled. In fact, the story was written in such a way that I know how all of them were pulled. But I want them to be pulled that way again."

All the feels as the kids say today: meaning both good, and bad, sympathy and empathy, condolences, and sentimentality. We get all the feels watching the Disney movies of our childhood, or remembering our first kiss. We get all the feels listening to a coworker describe moments of oppression, or over coming them. We get all the feels watching A Christmas Story. We can have all the feels helping a friend out of a difficult spot in their relationship, or we can say we're helping our friend navigate all the feels in that difficult spot.

All the feels mean anything that stirs up emotions. These events 

That's what we're praying about here. All the feels, and how they can lead us astray. I like the list mentioned in the intercession: sadness, discouragement, fear, insecurity, or loneliness. To which I would add, giddiness, joy, silliness, need... often I've found the higher up I go in any emotion the more likely it is I'll crash and burn in my most favorite ways and be fully able to justify it.

This was one word I had to look up: in fact my spiritual director directed me, spiritually, to do so. Affectivity: Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions; emotional. Influenced by or resulting from the emotions, as of a psychological disorder. Most of the world these days is Affectivity - especially as of a disorder. It's the application of Emotivism outside of Ethics. (Emotivism: an ethical theory that regards ethical and value judgments as expressions of feeling or attitude and prescriptions of action, rather than assertions or reports of anything.)

All the feels is generally discussed as a good thing: we love anything that stirs up all the feels. It makes us...well.. feel something. We need to feel something. Anything. Make me feel. Forcing me to feel snaps me out of the Ambient Apathy in which I live and makes me feel like a human again. Our culture deadens us to so much good, truth, and beauty that we have to have manufactured feelings, created drugs of films, TV, music, political drama, you name it. Human emotions are weak compared to all the feels.

But what if feeling, as such, is not a good thing? What if feeling just as fallen as the rest of us, just a mess and no sure guide to goodness, truth, or beauty?

What I'm leaning slowly is how little my feelings are rightly ordered. I don't mean the Gay or anything to do with sex. I mean fear, insecurity, loneliness, etc.  I'm so wrapped up in all the feels that it took a year or more of praying these prayers (and going to confession) to realize that a bad day at work makes me want to go have sex. That "self-medication usage" if you will, of sex in response to bad feels, in turn, leads to addiction, I get it: but it doesn't start that way. One is not addicted to bandages, but they do come in such pretty patterns now, and people always ask about why you wear them. They listen so sympathetically as you tell them what (Not really) happened to make you wear this starburst patterned on on your arm. Yes, they can sign your cast. Something make me feel good, about the things that make me feel bad. That's all.

That's really quite dangerous. We can't self-medicate, be it with drugs, alcohol, food, or sex; even as I wean myself from the sexual solution, I find the food solution to be very attractive. The issue is that emotions are, themselves, neutral and fallen. We want all our feels to be "good feels". We don't like or want things that make us feel bad, things that make us question our self image, that make us feel insecure, that drive us to change... these are not the feels I want. 

When we hear discussions of Sex in Church it usually centers around The Feels. Your rules make me feel bad about things that make me feel good (and cover up other things that make me feel bad). You have to change your rules or I won't feel welcomed in your Church and you're a hater.

Our Cultural affectivity is disordered. The Church knows what ails us. But we don't want to hear the answer:

We want to hear the Church say, "Oh, your sex life makes you feel better, then it's ok. God wants you to feel good." When, in fact, it is our sex life that's hurting us: and God wants to make us Saints.

The intention also asks that we might "love chastity and rejoice in it". I have no idea what that might look like or how it might play out in real life. I want this to be easy, but it's not. I noted in another essay: 30 plus years after using a crutch for my knee (for only 8 weeks in high school) a physical therapist noted I still walk with a limp. I've been using this other crutch for much longer. I am emotionally crippled because of my choices for self-medication. Should anyone be surprised I still limp?

This is our world. The world loves All the Feels (the good ones). We go to movies for love and anger. We ride roller coasters for adrenaline. We engage in cultural shaming on the internet for self-righteousness. But really, those are a drug. Those of us who have made a choice to face the pain, the struggle for personal chastity will not find support in the world. Your choices for your life make others confused. And they will throw Bad Feelings at us. 

We need recouse to the Church and her arsenal of Spiritual Weaponry; but until we love chastity fully and rejoice in it fully, we won't be able to not be hurt by the Church. We want to bend the rules, to find the way to feeling good.

Instead: we have to pray for the Holy Spirit to make us feel good about things that are, actually, Good.

Then we won't worry about the feels. We'll have emotion and feeling again.