I’m writing about our emotions as messengers that guard our wellbeing. I observed that joy lifts us and sadness sets us down. If we look deeper, within sadness is the energy of connection that pulls us toward one another, our community, a project, to our gardens or the mountains. In a word, within the energy of sadness is the energy of love. Sadness arises when we’re separated from what we love: ourselves, others, the wherewithal of our lives, and to life itself. It’s just that we’re wholly dependent on others and the gifts of creation to sustain us. This dependency and the uncertainty that comes with it is what we call contingency. The emotions of contingency—anger and fear—are the two other messengers that guard our wellbeing.
Think about these two emotions. What makes you angry? With me (for example) it’s the tailgating driver, burning the toast, or hearing that voting rights have been compromised. We get angry when our boundaries have been violated, our illusions have been broken, or we’ve spotted an injustice. These things have already happened. If they are certain to happen or might happen in the near or far off future, we experience fear: that our safety or equilibrium will be threatened, that something we’ve counted on will fail, that some avoidable harm will occur through ignorance or neglect.
Anger and fear are alerts that some kind of action or adjustment is required; something must be mended, changed, anticipated, or prevented. Anger and fear are clues to how we need to deal with our lives. Joy and sadness are clues to how we’re relating to life. All four offer essential spirit guidance—inner awareness that helps us orient ourselves to what’s happening to us and inside us. But if life is contingent and nothing is certain, how does experiencing our emotions not just lead to paralysis?
I’ll write next week about the energy within and behind joy and the power and calm of transcendence.