Last Saturday I watched a couple of college football games that put me through an emotional wringer.
I summarized those ups and downs in the first paragraph of a post I wrote on my HinesSight blog, "Pushing the pile" doomed Oregon State against USC.
While yesterday's Oregon vs. Washington State football game had an emotional arc for Ducks fans like me that went pre-game optimism - most of second half despair -- last few minutes elation (amazing comeback by Oregon), the Oregon State vs. USC game was pretty much the opposite.
In discussing the games with a friend the next day during our traditional Sunday coffee get-together, I tried to extract some philosophical wisdom from my football watching experience.
I told Jim that the reason I felt so happy when Oregon scored three touchdowns in about 2 1/2 minutes at the end of the game and ended up beating Washington State was that I'd felt so unhappy for most of the second half when it looked like defeat was heading Oregon's way.
Now, this is a pretty damn obvious observation.
But it's easy to overlook for those -- me included -- who think at times that life should be unalloyed positivity, filled with love, happiness, truth, virtue, and other desirable qualities.
As Taoism points out though, with Alan Watts popularizing the Taoist notion of yin and yang being inescapably interrelated, there's no up without down, no love without hate, no virtue without vice, and so on for any pair of seeming opposites.
Which aren't really opposites, because they're better thought of as being two sides of the same coin.
That philosophical coin also has an edge, of course. Meaning, there's a neutral aspect to most qualities. However, I'm not attracted to that sort of blandness. Most people aren't. We want life to be vibrant, not blah.
When the Winter Olympics are on, occasionally I catch a glimpse of a curling competition. I don't understand the rules of curling. I don't care about curling. Even if an American team is being shown on TV, I have little interest in whether the team wins or loses.
So I watch curling with very little emotion.
Yes, I'm calm and peaceful as I watch people sweep the ice after a teammate sets the stone (if that's what it's called) in motion. I'm also bored. I'd much prefer to be watching a football game where I do care which team wins or loses.
That caring produces good feelings when the team I want to have win, actually does. And it produces bad feelings when my favored team loses. But that's how emotions work. If you love somebody, it hurts when something bad happens to them.
Again, what I'm saying is obvious to most people.
The only way we can recognize a positive feeling is because it stands out from the background of a negative feeling. If I was happy from birth until death, there would be no way for me to grasp what happiness is, since I never would have experienced unhappiness.
I'm bringing this up because some people do believe that a goal of spirituality is to be in a steady state of detached calm, no matter what happens in their life.
This sounds horrible to me.