In our discussion this week of Fahrenheit 451 (Lucky for you, we will finish reading it next week, so my blog posts can be solely centered on Gone With the Wind, my current personal reading selection, and To Kill a Mockingbird, the novel I am reading with my freshmen), we talked about the idea of maturity and how the absence of education can often lead to immature reactions. Mildred throws temper tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants and runs away from Montag when he begins questioning her loyalty.
What Mildred and Fahrenheit 451 teach us is that a society devoid of intelligence, ideas, and introspection creates a society also devoid of maturity, progression, and personal responsibility. Because Mildred does not have the tools to deal with her inadequacies, she takes sleeping tranquilizers, stares at the television, and drives really fast to avoid dealing with her cognitive dissonance. Mildred reminds me of a toddler. Toddlers have two emotions: happy and sad. When all of their needs are met, they are happy. When their needs are not met, they are sad.
While there are many important reasons to be educated, I think one very important reason is to cultivate a sense of self-awareness. Part of this self-awareness is also being able to differentiate between emotions; sadness looks different than disappointment and frustration; elatedness looks difference than relief and surprise. I remember I was very close with a person who always said, “You are angry at me” and I would respond, “No, I am not angry at you. I still like you. I am just disappointed in the decision that you made”. To me, anger is a state of being that is very fierce and intense and often includes physical symptoms, such as a mean scowl, clenched fists, a booming voice. Disappointment, on the other hand, may not be as immediately intense and occurs when someone does not meet your expectations and you, as the receiver, have to learn to accept the ‘betrayal’. We deal with these emotions in very different ways, so being able to differentiate one from another is important for our mental health.
Someone recently departed from my life, which caused me to feel an entirely foreign emotion that, after some thinking and research, I will call “longing”. This is a brand new emotion for me that I am not quite sure how to deal with. Unlike with anger or sadness, I am not immediately suffering or fixated on this particular emotion; I don’t go home every night and sob to my pillow. I am still able to be productive in my day, enjoy the things and people I have in my life, and make goals for myself. It is not resentful or a product of contempt; I don’t feel like I need to throw darts at someone’s picture or assault a punching bag. It is not frustration or annoyance or jealousy or irritation. It does not prohibit my other emotions from breaching through. I feel no need to purge myself of this emotion and I don’t even really need to talk that much about it to other people. It is a very interesting state that I sometimes find myself suspended in.
I would describe this feeling of “longing” as an almost invisible thread that runs through my day. It is very mild; it doesn’t impact what I am doing and it doesn’t even reveal itself that often. But sometimes, sometimes, when I am on my way to school or just about to fall asleep, I feel this infinitesimal desire to be back in a different time and place.