Writing Tips

Writing Fake Answers to Real Questions: Part 2

Writing Fake Answers to Real Questions: Part 2

So you know that you need to write about hard, real questions and that you should explore the complicated aspects of those questions and not resign to cliches. However, if you have ever truly wrestled with a hard question, either by means of storytelling or not, you know that it can be extremely hard to find a real answer.

So, this post will be addressing what to do when you can’t seem to find a real answer and even if you should leave the question unanswered.

In my last post on answering hard questions, Kumquat Absurdium commented:

“Should we not only deal with difficult questions but begin to admit that sometimes we don’t known the answer instead of covering our ignorance with cliche? I know there are answers and legitimate ones at that but I was wondering if sometimes it is better to leave them unanswered? Or is that just unhelpful and leaving the reader feeling cheated?”

These are really great questions (hard questions in themselves), but I think we need to focus on answering the two unspoken questions in the comment. First, can we always find a real answer? And second, are answers helpful? 

The first question truly deals more with theology than good literary practice. I am a Christian, so my answer is simple. Yes, real answers exist to every question, and humans have the ability to devote themselves to answering those question and can answer (but not grasp) the truth behind any question (though this may require a life-time or more of devotion to a single question.) However, I do want to mess with theology as little as possible in this post. Even if you do not believe that there are real answers to hard questions, then the second question still applies.

Are answers (whether true, false, or non-existent) helpful to others?

As writers, we must answer the second question based on how the answers might help our audience. Like I mentioned in my first post, we should write real questions because desperate people have real questions. Real questions and fake answers have driven people to suicide. It is our duty as writers to seek to help those people as best we can, especially since many of us have been helped by books in similar ways.

Several other commenters contributed to Kumquat Absurdium’s questions by suggesting that answers to hard questions may be intellectually satisfying but not emotionally so. Therefore, they suggested that leaving the question addressed but answered is a good option, so long as the writer leaves the readers with a sense of hope and not despair. One commenter pointed to how intellectual answers can give a sense of self-reliance, confidence, and even pride. I agree that this false sense of power over a question is bad, not only because it leads to arrogance and selfishness but also because the sense of power is not true. Human beings only have the power that is given to them and possess nothing. If you think you understand something intellectually or scientifically, you give yourself the impression that you have power over it. As I mentioned, not only does this lead to undesirable behavior towards others, but it also simply isn’t true. You don’t actually have power over anything outside of yourself.

Therefore I disagree that merely intellectually satisfying answers are true.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not think that we should disqualify an answer simply because our emotions are revolted by it, but I do think we should consider our emotions in the process of answering hard questions. Our intellectual answer should also satisfy emotionally. Granted, our emotions can be and often are wrong. We may be initially revolved to an answer but then learn to be emotionally satisfied by the same answer. However, I think there is a true difference between the emotions involved when someone is mortified at the idea of revealing himself as a liar and when someone is mortified that a mother would kill one of her own children to save the rest of her family. One reflect man’s twisted sinfulness; the other man’s inherent goodness and morality.

So, if you are answering a hard question and find yourself with a merely intellectual answer, then I would suggest that you have actually only produced a false answer and are ignoring the important world of emotions.

This also applied in reverse. If you have found a merely emotional answer, then you also have only a false answer and are ignoring the important world of emotions.

Finally, if you have found an answer that leads you to the sense that you have full understanding and power over the situation, then you also have a false answer.

So, if we assume that real answers do exist and answers that are merely intellectual are false, then should we or should we not write until we find real answers and write those real answers? 

First, with the idea of helping our desperate readers in mind, we must consider how not answering the question might affect this reader. By merely addressing the hard question, in all of its emotion, physical, and intellectual complexity, we are providing the reader with empathy. The reader is no longer alone in their search and struggle.

This is very important, but I suggest not the most important. The reader is given temporary peace and encouraged that others are looking for the same answers. The reader enjoys and is encouraged by the story. However, I have found this enjoyment and sense of peace to be temporary. All you, as the writer, did was sympathize with and encourage the reader to search harder. You encouraged them to continue searching, while you yourself did not continue until you found the answer. At best, this is lazy; at worst, it is hypocritical and a scam.

The reader may continue with their search for answers based on your story, and they may even get farther than you and find the answer. However, too often, I believe the reader will still fail to find the answer and fall back even further into despair, since even his favorite story cannot find the answer.

So since, a real answer can be found and should not lead to self-reliance and pride, and a leaving no answer is likely to indirectly cause more problems, I purpose that posing a question and leaving it unanswered is also a false answer and even morally wrong– however, well intended.

Now, this is all great. We should write and answer hard questions. Fantastic. But that is harder than it sounds, especially if you start writing about truly hard questions. You will know this all too well if you have ever tried addressing a hard question in a story.

So here are some practical tips for writing hard questions and writing real answers, when you can’t seem to find real answers:

  1. Read books that answer hard questions:
    • I’d suggest starting with C. S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, no matter what question you are asking. This book does a fantastic job of providing a true answer to extremely difficult questions within a well written narrative.
    • Also read books written by writers that are primarily writers (not philosophers, apologists, or theologians) on the question. If you decide to read a narrative by a philosopher, you are most likely to get a false intellectual answer or simply find the answer forced into a story rather than a natural narrative approach.
  2. Find an older, mature person to talk about your question with. They may be hard to find, but there are some older people out there who might be able to help you with your question.
  3. Keep writing. If you have not found your answer yet, just keep writing. Don’t end the story. Ask your next question and keep writing. (You can edit later and fix the plot once you figure out an answer.)
  4. Set the story aside. Perhaps, you are just not ready to answer that question yet. Pick an easier questions and get back to your other story later. I mentioned Till We Have Faces above. When he was 18, Lewis wanted to write the story focused on the question, “Are the gods/God not just?” Lewis ended up finally writing the story near the end of his life, though he tried multiple times before. Maybe you just are not ready to answer your question yet, so wait but don’t give up.

So do you agree or disagree? Should we write answers to hard questions? Do you have any tips for doing so? What do you think of stories that pose hard questions but never answer them?

God bless,

Gabrielle

Why Writers Should Ask Real Questions                 Writing Tips: Avoid Fake Answers to Real Questions (Part 1)

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19 thoughts on “Writing Fake Answers to Real Questions: Part 2”

  1. I actually disagree with most (though not all) of this. I think one of the greatest things books have done for me is to inspire thought, and if you give a clear answer to the question you shut down the thought process. At this point, story-telling becomes no more than a tool for promulgating and teaching the author’s beliefs, which is something I have hated since my parents read me “Narnia” when I was small.
    One of my favorite quotes by Tolkien is: “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
    I don’t think it is an author’s job provide readers with clear-cut answers, but to lead people into thinking about things that wouldn’t normally cross their minds (and not necessarily only moral and philosophical questions: I’ve been led to learn things about history, geography, and science from books).
    I would also suggest that there is no such thing as a universally emotionally satisfying answer. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I would be as likely to decide that a book is emotionally unsatisfying because the coffee had run out as because of anything the author did.
    I’m hoping this doesn’t come across as a rant 🙂 I’m looking for discussion, not an argument 🙂

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    1. Great! I don’t mind disagreement at all. Here is my defense:
      1. Answers to hard questions are rarely clear. To quote Lewis in Till We Have Faces: “Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”
      2. Giving an answer is actually less manipulative than offering only questions (if you have an answer yourself). It is impossible to communicate without a bias, no matter how hard you try. If you ask questions, you have a bias behind them, and even subconsciously, you are leading the person you are asking to the same answer as you. When you come forward with questions and your answer, you are being honest with your audience and letting them disagree or agree with you as they will.
      3. I also do not see the problem with trying to convince other people that they are wrong and you are right. If you truly believe that someone is believing a lie or has a belief (and much more so if you believe that they will be damned to eternal torment without a change in belief), then you would have to be cruel and malicious not to try and convince them of what you think is the truth.
      4. Many questions do not have answers that universally emotionally satisfy everyone (Examples: What physical location is peace found in? Should I marry or remain single?) However, I believe that many hard questions do. For instance, where can we ultimately find forgiveness? or What is a soul? or What should be (is the ideal) the role of the family? This is based in my belief in absolute truth and that Truth is good (and therefore good and satisfying in all ways, including emotionally.) Now a true answer may not immediately satisfy us emotionally (for instance, my emotions rebel against the truth that mercy is more important than justice for us humans), but that is a fault in me, not the answer. Once my emotions are aligned as they should be, the answer will satisfy me.

      So! Your rebuttal?

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      1. Okay, taking it one point at a time:

        1) Naturally the author believes that they have the right answer, but it isn’t guaranteed that they will be right. If you present an unclear answer as truth, this could leave the reader confused and unable to work out what is wrong with the answer. If you don’t give the answer, they have to think for themselves, and so you avoid directly leading people into error. This obviously doesn’t apply to books that only explore aspects an answer that is clear (I believe you gave “The Bronze Bow” as an example at some point. We know that Jesus preached forgiveness, so the story actually only explores this in a particular situation. For the reader, it is pretty simple to work out whether they believe in the answer or not).
        2) If you have the answer already, why are you writing about it? In this case it is not exploring the question, it is using the story to present the question and answer to the reader. Also, by avoiding actually giving the answer, this allows the readers to apply the story to their own experience (like Tolkien says in the quote above), whereas if you give a clear answer and the reader disagrees, they might have to reject the whole book (as I have with books by angry atheists and even some fellow Christians).
        3) I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to convince people they are wrong (I do it on a nearly daily basis 😀 ). However, do you have to do it in fantasy? I know some people do look for answers in stories, but, if you make it about promoting your own agenda, they are no longer about entertainment and escapism, they are yet another form of people trying to tell you what to believe. If a person’s beliefs are naturally a part of them, they will flow over into their writing (like Tolkien’s Catholicism into The Lord of the Rings). I think this is a good thing, but consciously making a story into an argument leads to books being written as a counter to other books, having to make sure an author’s beliefs line up with yours before reading, etc. When this happens, we lose our role of storytellers and are simply using our abilities for our own ends.
        4) I believe human emotions are too volatile and subjective to find answers. Reasoned answers never change, but emotional ones do. I believe that only rational answers are reliable (unless they have been revealed to us by God, obviously), but that we should look for these in places other than stories.

        I don’t have a problem with writers naturally coming across an answer and putting it in their story, but I believe a story should represent our search and end at our current stage in it. Also, that this answer is a part of the story, not the purpose (for example, The Lord of the Rings is a story about destroying the ruling ring, not about the questions it poses).

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      2. I don’t want to butt into your discussion but I found both of your arguments very interesting, specifically Gabrielle’s third point, so I thought i’d comment on it.

        I think that might be the most controversial part of answering difficult questions and also the reason why many writers prompt for fake answers: the notion of there being a distinct ‘right’ that, by prinicple, makes opposing or deviant views wrong (absolute truth), is one that human beings generally don’t like to hear, or swallow. We live in a society that wholeheartedly supports relative truth: the idea that if its true to the individual, then it should be considered valid and acceptable by all. As a result, the idea of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, or ‘absolute truth’ has become somewhat muddied by society, in favour of ‘different flavours’ of truth. Depending on what view of truth you adopt, emotions will play a bigger or smaller role in what can be considered a ‘satisfactory answer’, as Gabrielle described above.

        Even though I beleive that Absolute truth does exist, and it is our duty as writers to search for it, I think there is potential for a large miscommunication between the reader and the writer. By definition, absolute truth is outside of the individual (though i do beleive it isn’t compeltely external, since we do have souls that are capable of accepting and fostering such truths) and as such is (in theory) not based on personal opinions or perceptions. Providing real answers to questions would then mean that writers would have to look for and tap into answers outside of themselves and their biases (as much as they can, of course, since it is impossible to be completely impartial). I think the mistake in communication would arise if the writer portrays the veiws presented in the wrong way.
        If a writer presents their answers to questions as theirs alone (or if the reader takes it as such) then we suddenly drop back into the domain of relative truth; ‘your truth’ vs. ‘my truth’, a very human struggle of wills, as opposed to one supreme truth (given by God) that we should all try to align ourselves with. To avoid this, I think writers should try their very best to depersonalise their presentation of the truth and present it as something outside of themselves, so that it doesn’t appear like they are ‘promulgating and teaching their own version of the truth’ (like Kikyo pointed out) but THE truth, the one and only. It shouldn’t be so much the writer telling the reader ‘I am right and you are wrong’ as you put it, Gabrielle, because (in the reader’s mind) this personalises the truth again and makes it seem like it is one human exerting their opinions on another. It should ideally be the writer saying, ‘there is no I or you: there is only a truth (partially) external from us that we should both try align ourselves with to’.

        I think Christian movies suffer from this alot: many of them create plots that seem solely crafted for the purpose of presenting a truth rather than presenting a story that organically and realistically shows how the answers to hard questions can play out in real life. They often resemble sermons wrapped in a thin layer of plot and character and are as a result dismissed as preachy even if they may have a good message or a fair attempt at answering questions. What you said above about reading actual stories that answer questions rather than philosophy or theology makes a lot of sense: it’s not just the author trying their best to ‘sell’ their intellectual understanding of truth or trying to force people to believe it, but a presentation of situation that resembles real life, where questions can be answered naturally, and in a way that genuinely wants to foster a connection with the reader.

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      3. Thanks, Lisa Katherine, this has actually made things much clearer for me. 🙂
        I realise that the main reason I am so against giving a direct answer to a difficult question is because I believe in absolute truth. Because of this, any answer that I can’t agree with I see as “wrong”, and this has ruined stories for me in the past, because if the answer is the point of the story and is untrue (or even just if I can’t comprehend it), the story feels unresolved. I don’t know if this is the same for other people? If the questions aren’t answered, I can avoid this.

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      4. Your welcome, Kikyo. I actually saw your second comment after I posted mine, so I didn”t get to comment on it.

        I agree in part with your points: I have read books that present messages I don’t agree with at all and they have ruined the books from me in part. I however do not find this a negative thing: for me, a books message is integral to the reason why I enjoy it (and reading in general), so if i disagree with a message and it ruins a book for me, then that’s that. I move on to the next one. I place alot of meaning in books and they are rarely just for entertainment: I almost always expect to recieve something deeper than an experience, something more lasting. As such, I don’t think books and moral messages should ever be seperate. That’s just my personal reading style though. And that’s really a matter fo opinion.
        Of course some books will be more overt than others in portraying a moral message (and even tastelessly, so, like the Christian movies I descirbed-I suppose thats when it can ruin the reading experience) but I think how the message is portrayed matters. If the writer places just as much importance on the charcacters and plot and making the story actually good, even people who don’t agree with the message can enjoy it. Chronicles of Narnia is enjoyed world wide by people who aren’t Christians, for example, because it is more than just the message it portrays (even if the message is still very important). Even books that don’t ‘plan’ on commenting on some moral issue will almost always do so unconsciously. Humans are moralistic beings: we can’t help but let our beliefs leak into things, even if it is just a little and completely unintentionally.

        Usually when I encounter a book I disagree with, instead of shoving it into the back of my memory, I try to think about what I can learn from it. Sometimes I read books that have messages I don’t like but I can never figure out exactly what caused my visceral negative reaction, so by thinking about why I disliked it, I often give more definition to what I believe. In other words, I always learn from books that present messages, even if they are messages I don’t agree with, and in a weird way, when I remove myself from my initial emotional reaction, assessing why the mesage is ‘wrong’ leads me closer to the truth by means of ‘negative definition’ (‘defining what the answer is by way of showing what it definitely isn’t’). So for, example, I recently read a book called ‘the versions of us’, a contemporary romance about the three ways a couples relationship would have gone if they had met, hadn’t met or had met in a different way than initially. I was interested in how the author would explore the place of human relationships and the consequences of decisions. I’ve never disliked a book more: the author seemed to be propagating the idea that chasing personal happiness is the highest priority, even if doing so involves selfish or immoral action (the characters where unfaithful to each other multiple times). I was very tempted to completely forget the book ever existed, but after thinking about it, even if I didn’t agree one iota with what the author seemed to be propagating, I came to some interesitng conclusions about how most human beings treat romantic relationships and what their place is in our lives and what they really are meant for. It also gave me insight into how alot of people make decisions, and just the general nature of man and sin (keep in mind that these messages weren’t intentionally propagated by the author: the book was entirely secular).
        I guess what i’m trying to get at in a longwinded way is that even if I don’t agree with books, I learn from them. And if a writer truly genuinely truthfully finds an answer-if they are honest with themselves about what message they are sending out and place God at the center of their writing-I think they can portray the answer to the difficult question they are tackling. Both you and I agree that there is one truth, so that means there is credit to the idea of answering it as wholly as possible. Of course, Christians aren’t infallible beings, so they are definitely Christian writer’s who feign answers to questions that are untrue or in their personal interest (just read any typical Christian Romance, yikes), but I do think it is possible to at least significantly touch upon the true answers to questions, and to me, it’s worth stumbling upon books i sorely disagree with to find that one book that actually makes things clearer. I think books are one of the many ways God communicates with people, and I have learnt many things from them; books have been my best friends, and my greatest teachers, and if the writers who wrote them decided to leave their discussions of questions more ambioguous, I don’t think I would be where I am today. So I do think writer’s shoud strive to answer questions, even if it isn’t all the way. And I also think it is the responsibility of the reader to approach these answers with a critical eye and a grain of salt, so that they can weed out the false answers from the real ones. And finally, I think that, at the end of the day, our final stop on whether answers are true or false should be God and the Bible, because only He knows the answers. Our emotions can decieve us, and so can our opinions, but He never will.

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      5. So, I’ve given all these replies some thought and tried to look at the books I’ve read in this light. Until recently (as in only a few months ago) I tended to read books only for the experience. In this case, a wrong direct answer can spoil the story. However, I think I’m beginning to understand the value of reading with a more critical eye and in using them to try to understand the world (I think I have done this subconsciously even when I have read with only entertainment in mind). I realise now that several of my favourite books do, in fact, answer the questions, but because they do so naturally and without using allegory (which is one of my pet hates), and also because the answers aren’t clear (your original first point, Gabrielle) I haven’t picked up on the answers.
        So, I have decided to (mostly) concede. You have both convinced me of the value of answering difficult questions, though I am still not sure that there is anything wrong with leaving the question unanswered if the author doesn’t actually have an answer.
        I still do (and probably always will) hate allegory, and I think there are a lot of wrong ways to answer these questions. For instance, I read a Christian science fiction series not too long ago in which the characters find the most Christian solution to every problem they encounter, no matter how small, and this was just exhausting to read and had a negative impact on the story even though I agreed with the answers.
        I also like what you said about learning from books you don’t agree with, Lisa Katherine, I might try to do this instead of throwing them into a mental rubbish bin 🙂
        The only things I would like to add are that I still think a story should be an exploration of, rather than a presentation of, the question and answer, and also that the story should still be as much about the characters and plot as the question.
        Thank you both for your very thorough and reasoned answers. I feel like I have learned from this, and it is also quite a contrast from the internet discussions I’m used to (in a good way). Now I have some re-reading and possibly re-writing to do 🙂

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      6. You’re very welcome! I have to thank you too for bringing a different point of view to the table as well: it prompted an interesting discussion and I think it helped give a more diverse view of what answering difficult questions really is for everyone (a difficult question in and of itself).

        I can completely understand your dislike of allegory. I think it can be a valuable tool but if used badly it can really detract from the reading experience. After all, as you said, reading is both about the experience-the actual story-as well as the message. Books that tilt on one side too much often fail to be well rounded, and the level of tolerance a person has for how far a book goes on either side before it is considered ‘bad’ varies from person to person. So, for me, its the exact opposite: books that are ’empty’ or ‘shallow’ or don’t have aything for me to learn are my pet hate, even if it’s perfectly fine for books to exist as just an entertainment medium. It’s an issue of personal preference, I guess.

        As for whether books should be a presentation or exploration of difficult questions? I also think it goes back to balance (don’t most things?). I do agree that often times an exploration can be more useful than a direct answer because it simply isn’t that easy to come up with an answer, and as we grow, our knowledge of answers often grows with us; exploring leaves space for us and our readers to develop our answers as we mature and leanr more. Ultimately, it’s a difficult question, whether to explore or present, and I don’t have an answer i’m satisfied with. I tend to lean more heavily in Gabrielle’s direction still, but you make some very good points too. The issue is not settled in my mind and I will continue to think about it. I don’t think that’s neccesarily a bad thing though, to keep turning it over in my head: some of these things come with experience (maybe when I’m a seasoned writer I’ll know for sure) and I think it’s one of those questions a writer should think about their whole life (and apply, when the answer trickles in). For me, the most important thing that I have learned from this is that I should keep searching and never stop trying to earnestly, honestly answer questions, the key word being trying.

        Thanks again for getting my wheels turning. I too have a lot of thinking and writing to do. And thank you, Gabrielle, for starting this series in the first place. It’s not something writers think about enough, and I think the younger we start dealing with the issue of answering difficult questions, the better we will get at it as we grow.

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      7. Hey, Kikyo and Lisa! I am glad you continued this conversation; it was interesting and refreshing to read. Thank you both for continuing the conversation, and I loved the points that you brought up, Lisa.

        I agree with you, Kikyo, that writers should explore a question (I think I said something to that effect in my first post on this subject– if I did not, then I should have, so thank you for bringing it up again.) Even if the writer has an idea of the answer, they should write about the difficult aspects of the question. Also, for myself, I would must rather write about a question that is bothering me, and this keeps me from writing a false answer.

        Kikyo, you mentioned that a wrongly answered question can affect your enjoyment of the book, and I agree that it does. However, I think that is the fault of the writer’s execution and not the fault of the writer’s willingness to ask the question. For me, an unanswered question can also negatively impact my enjoyment of a book. An example of this was actually the inspiration for this series. Episode 3 of BBC’s Sherlock seas 4 posed many, very difficult questions (Is it right to kill one person to same many? What does forgiveness look like for a psychopath? How much are we responsible for our actions, when a horrible past has affect us?). The show explored the difficult parts of these questions, and then ended with absolutely no answers. This frustrated and disappointed me, and by no means, was I encouraged to go out looking for answers myself. This was just lazy writing motivated by the fear that answer would offend some of the audience.

        Just as a small note, I think you two should be careful about elevating reason too highly. After all, humans are not primarily thinking creatures. Reason is only one aspect of our being; desires and emotions are another equally important part of us. God did create us to love Him and love each other– not to think about Him and think about each other. So just be careful, we cannot think our way to salvation or even think our way to behaving rightly. God does not call us to be wise, though He encourages it; God calls us to have faith and love.

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      8. I find it interesting that this series was inspired from the BBC Sherlock’s lack of answers to the difficult questions posed in late season four, because I too was really bothered by all the moral questions they threw in without answers. It was almost like they dropped their audience into the ocean (of very difficult moral questions) with no life raft, or supplies, just so that they could heigthen the drama and raise the stakes. I really like the show, but it was quite distressing how they ended the season.

        You are indeed right about depending too much on rationality. I think it’s almost easier to do that: to sit around and think about people and God instead of loving both, because thinking can be contained in our heads, completely under our control. Thenact of loving, on the other hand, is dynamic and not completely under our control (in fact, it is completely under God’s control, and if their is one thing people do not like doing is relinquishing control).

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      9. I understand what you mean about faith and love, but I would argue that these are neither emotions nor desires, but acts of will. Love is “willing the good of the other as other. In other words: choosing what is best for someone else”, and faith is choosing to believe and trust in God.
        So, then, reason is not the most important thing, but it is our rationality and will that are in “the image and likeness of God” (or so I was taught). Emotions and desires are lesser powers of the soul, meant to be ruled by reason and to inform it. They ought not to be ignored, since we are incomplete without them, but they are not equal to reason. In an un-fallen world, we would be able to control our passions with our reason, which would be informed by love of God and of each other.
        I could write a treatise on this, but I’m not going to since my previous comments could fill a few pages already 🙂 I honestly don’t spend my life picking fights (well, not intentionally, tee hee).

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      10. Kikyo, I too do not spend my life disagreeing with people in comments sections, but I have to say I completely disagree with you (again 😛 Sorry. What can I say?) . I must admit though, that the way you disagree with people is rather pleasant and well argued. (as opposed to trolly and insulting, which is excessive on the internet)

        I’ll keep my argument short, since my comments and thoughts unflitered could also fill multiple pages, and no one wants to rife through slightly off-topic debates when reading the comments section (or maybe they do? Who knows).

        I very strongly believe that emotions are equal to reason, and that primarily might be because you and I have very different ‘definitions’ or ‘perceptions’ of emotion. I can’t exactly say what you define/perceive emotions as since you didn’t directly state it, but from how you speak about it, it seems that you regard them as less ordered, or unruly (you used the verbs ‘control’ and ‘ruled’ when describing the interaction between emotion and rationality: things less mature than reason, almost like a parent and a defiant teenager. Of course emotions can be all of these things (occasionally for all of us and usually in those who are less mature or developed) but I think emotions are more than just uncontrolled responses to things or people, or sinful manifestations of mans nature. Emotion as a concept and even as a word tends to have negative connotaitons, as opposed to ‘rationality’ which is almost always neutrally or positively regarded. However, emotions are not intrinsically flawed: they, like anything else, can mature and grow. They are more than impulsive uninformed reactions and can arise from an act of will (we can choose to be more empathetic of others, more selfless or even more merciful if we put our mind to it, and we can choose to encourage positive emotions and reduce the impact of negative ones in ourselves). If indeed our emotions can arise from an act of will, it is then less about learning to just ‘control’ or contain them. Yes, it is in part about learning to limit how much control emotional reactions and thoughts have over us at the end of the day (just as we would shy away from making only rational, solely impersonal judgements all the time) but it is primarily about learning to process them in a healthy and accepting way (instead of trying to shun or suppress them, understanding where they come from and what they tell us about ourselves and the world we live in). In other words, emotions are not static: they don’t remain in a constant state of unhealthiness and are thus not consistently dependent on rationality to contain them. The more mature a person is, especially in their relationship with Christ, the more balanced they will be between rationality and emotion, and the more well-rounded their decisions and interactions will be. As such, emotions and rationality are equal (I would acclimatize them to a healthy married couple): they inform each other, and are respectively more useful or less useful in some situations but usually are used together in a healthy individual (though people vary in personality, so some people will lean towards one more than the other naturally)

        I also disagree that it is just or even mostly in our rationality that we are like God. I would say that God too represents that balance (a perfect balance, in fact): Chrisitianity is based on the notion of God’s mercy (which leans on the side of empathy and emotion) but is also based on justice (we will all be judged for our actions in the end). Virtues like kindness and love itself could be argued as irrational because, truth be told, human beings are naturally selfish creatures, and choosing to love and be kind to all of them is the harder, more time-consuming task, especially if we perceive from their actions that they do not deserve it.

        Okay, so I ended up babbling again. I’ll shut up now. 🙂 If you are itching to correct me, I suggest we move the discussion somewhere else, so as not to disturb everyone else. Or of course, you might be tired of arguing with a random stranger online, haha :p

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      11. Whoa, I think I might have actually found someone as argumentative as me, and I mean that as a compliment, of course.
        I will let this one pass, I think. I just couldn’t bring myself to move on without stating my opinion (as usual. It’s one of my less likable traits 😛 )

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      12. Haha 🙂 I find it really funny that you find me argumentative, because in everyday life, I’m super quiet and prefer to avoid conflict. I’m just really stubborn about a few things: also, I guess I just argue my points better in writing, so the opinions spill out that way. I apologise for targeting the overflow at you: in all honesty, you just happened to have touched upon the few things I like talking (and talking and talking and talking) about, and we just happened to have a lot of different opinions (though I certainly did learn alot from what you had to say). Hope you don’t feel affronted (if you do, here’s a virtual hug/concilliatory handshake)

        I don’t think it’s a bad thing that you state your opinions: you do it respectfully, which is the best way to do so, and its triggered lots of interesting discussions (perhaps too many? haha). But even the most argumentative of us don’t have energy to settle every philosophical question or debate, so I’ll let you off (i’m totally joking: I don’t think my conflict-avoidant heart could write another longwinded argument, I probably need the rest more than you do).

        It was nice talking to you!

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  2. Good article 🙂 I can see were both of you are coming from. It’s good to answer questions. We often read stories to try and make sense of the world so it can be unfair to with old the answers if we have them. But at the same time, there is a time in the search where we aren’t actually looking for an answer and sometimes its enough just to know that someone else is asking too.

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