Positive And Negative Emotions

We attach two attributes, positive and negative to feelings and actions; one good, one evil. Perhaps this dichotomy stems from Christian beliefs; the Chinese yin/yang exhibits opposites with no such attachment to good or evil, pleasure or pain. Opposites define information. The most stark example of this is in binary number systems where any number can be represented as a sequence of on or off units. All numbers, and thus all information can be broken into these most stark of terms.

Matter and antimatter too create reality in this way - well, this a bold statement, as there is currently a dearth of antimatter in the universe. This is a peculiar type of opposite. Perhaps this is worth exploring in future.

Perhaps humans have an inherent concept of positivity and negativity. We see the 'ones' in binary as positive, full of energy and life, and the 'zeroes' as hollow holes, sad nothings. In emotions we see some as good; happiness, the warmth of the sun after a cold night, as positive; and sadness, bitter tastes and things alien or harmful to life as negative.

In emotion, this can be complex. Is sadness really bad for life and happiness good for it? In art, I have observed that most of my best work is completed when unhappy; when happy I'm more likely not to take care. Perhaps happiness and contentment themselves are signs that we do not need to care, that we are being cared for - is this positive? This seems like some sort of trap, like the mythical island of joy occupied by Odysseus and his men; a feeling of something good but actually a slow death.

Isn't giving and activity the key to any success or thriving? This work can make us unhappy, life can feel like a trudge, but it can also create happiness; perhaps love itself could be described as unrestricted giving. In selfless care for others, our unhappiness perhaps gifts them happiness, their restful contentment, but this helps us grow stronger, and thrive, while the happy recipients of our work decay in blind contentment, a lazy stupor. In this case, happiness is not a sign of what is good, but a sign of what is bad for us, and vice versa.

Mark Sheeky, 30 March 2022