Monday, February 19, 2007

Emotional Response

This is a little embarrassing (and Elizabeth makes fun of me for it), but on three different occassions, as I was driving my motorcycle to school in the morning, I started to cry.

The first time, in fact, I almost had to pull over and stop driving. Just before I pulled over, though, I imagined the sight of a white man sitting on a motorcyle in the middle of a busy farmer's market in Bangalore crying... and that made me laugh... so I was able to keep going. What is interesting is that I have no way to explain what emotion I was having. I was not sad. I was not hurt. I was not happy. There isn't a word to describe the emotion. At the time, I was listening to the Democracy Now podcast on my iPod and they were playing a speech by Martin Luther King the night before he was killed (the famous and prophetic "I may not get there with you" speech). I became overwhelmed with a strange mixture of emotions... sadness, to be sure; awe; inspiration; urgency; frustration; anger; and even some joy, just to mention a few. My point is that language is simply inadequate to describe such emotions.

The second time, I was actually listening to a Norah Jones interview on the
NPR Shuffle podcast. She started telling the story of her time in the recording studio with Ray Charles when she was just 20 years old or something. For some reason, I started to cry again. What is interesting is that I was at exactly the same farmer's market as the last time (this was about a week later). Once again, I have no word to describe the emotion.

The third time, once again I was listening to an NPR podcast and driving through exactly the same farmer's market. This time it was a story about Barbaro, the racehorse who had just been euthanized. Again, I started to cry. The mixture of emotions this time certainly included sadness, but also frustration and many other emotions, which I may explore in another blog later. But my point here is that we, as human people, have so many countless emotions, and no real way to express those emotions in words. There is an ineffability to life; a mystery that we can never understand about what makes us who we are; what makes us vulnerable; what makes us, well, human.

So, for anyone out there who might read this blog, family or stranger, I invite you to respond (anonymously if you prefer), with descriptions of emotions that you might have experienced that we have no word to describe. In my last sermon in New Jersey, I shared a phrase by Rudolph Otto that happens to be my favorite and, I think, is fitting here. It is the Mysterium Tremendum... the Mystery of Experience which is at once tremendous and trembling... Terrible and Terrific. It is this mystery, I think, that makes us who we are.


Mom (Bannon) said...

You know what impressed me the most about your tears? Your ability to shed them, and to possess the tenderness for situations that touched the innermost parts of your heart, and I felt happy for your tenderness, and yes, even your sadness of the moments, because it meant you care, and feel deeply, and in a world that is often hardened and tears no longer come easily, I find your tears as refreshing as the sun after the rain. I had an experience last week that left me feeling frustrated with myself. I was at a Bible study and I prayed outloud especially for Andrew Kinard, our very injured Marine, and I became so overcome with emotions that no words would come out of my mouth, and I had a lot to pray about but was totally unable to speak. I remember feeling glad tho that the Holy Spirit takes our moanings and groanings direct to God and they are legible. (on the comical side, I am thinking maybe you should take a different route and bypass the market.. :)I believe an Angel is sitting there waiting to touch your shoulder as you pass that spot to being forth tenderness at that very moment ..I love you, your Mom

Kathrin said...

Well all emotions are so close together, laughing from crying etc. Many times I'll be running and I may either laugh or cry, but it's good, it's just a release of whatever is going on. Yesterday I went to a film audition and I had to pretend I was trapped in a closet and was scared. Immediately I was there, I cried, screamed, wept, and rolled into a ball on the floor. It was quite a workout at 10am, and it felt good actually(sick actors). I've been going to one audition every day this week, which makes me happy to the point of tears.

joshwall said...

Have to say I don't cry much or have out bursts like that. Its always been rather odd for me because it feels like a very "manly" thing... men don't cry after all, but that's not why I do it... I just don't.

However, there are many moments where I stop and am struck with something, moments when the rest of the world is stripped away and you understand (at least partially) some deep truth. Then the sad thing is that I often can't communicate those truths, after all how do you explain the way God spoke to you in a sunset? Or perhaps with good friends over coffee... The english language can't capture those moments.

NJ Association Office said...

My first visit to your blog and you and the comments here made me cry!

It's good to shed tears, it shows you care.

I'll be back,


P.S. I loved the photo comments!