Reason v Passion

Reason v Passion

Awakening is possible only for those who seek it and want it, for those who are ready to struggle with themselves and work on themselves for a very long time and very persistently in order to attain it.”

George Gurdjieff

The world we live in becomes more beautiful and amazing everyday when we are not divorced from our real feelings. We aren’t always in situations where we can express what our real feelings are because our feelings might be regarded as irrelevant, inappropriate, or we might even be told our feelings are wrong – that what we feel doesn’t reflect what a rational person would feel under the same circumstances.

We might be told we are reacting inappropriately or that we should be grateful and happy when the truth is that we don’t see it that way, even if we have the intellectual capacity to understand that all rational arrows indicate that we should feel happier or better about something then what we actually do.

Take prison as an example. Imagine how an advocate can “soft-sell” a concept like prison to another person after judgement;

Are you kidding me? This is terrific news, you got given 5 months, it could have been 12 months or more!”

And while enshrined in perpetuity that universal truth that things could always be worse, we still know when something feels unfair to us because we can feel that feeling of disappointment inside ourselves.

Feelings are deeply intimate experiences. I might feel particularly incensed about something or other and yet I might dismiss something else with a shrug or have no preference either way. 

Being informed that you are being sentenced to prison is not an insignificant event but a highly memorable state of affairs.

Prison is a last resort and should always be reserved as such, which is why it is rarely a first option in real life practice. People may commit a series of indictable offences before a prison sentence is triggered.

From a social justice point of view, I believe that all prisons globally should also be communities that reflect humanity, compassion and love because people in prison are still people and not inanimate objects devoid of thoughts and feelings. Although there might be people in prison who genuinely pose threats to the safety of the community, prison is also a place that houses all kinds of fish, not just brutally senseless blood thirsty predators.

As a global community, we can choose to care enough to question or further investigate our preexisting assumptions about a place like prison, and the people that go there, and the reasons that they do.

We often think about the perpetrator and the crime but we don’t also consider that families grieve when their loved one(s) go to prison. Imagine how you would feel if your best friend or someone you loved and cared about had to go to prison.

Mums, dads, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles and kids can’t call a prisoner – processes must be followed which are legally enforceable by the prison. Money must be deposited into a prisoners account (which must first be created) all contacts must be approved by the prison prior to calls being placed, and loved ones must wait for a call within designated time frames. Those time frames can also change if something unexpected and unforeseeable happens in prison; such as in the event when a prison initiates the process of lock down for the safety of everyone in prison. And visiting a loved one in prison can entail being strip searched. Imagine your dear old mum or grandma going through all that just to visit you.

People can be silly, we can do idiotic things and make mistakes or exercise poor judgement. People can become impaired in their decision making process because they were under the influence of illicit substances for example, or were intoxicated, and these factors may be regarded but they can fail to qualify as an acceptable legal defense when people also choose to act with recklessness and disregard.

Sometimes laws aren’t flexible at all like bendy straws but more like big old oak trees with roots that extend deeply into the earth. The trees have been there for a very long time and continue to remain because they serve a necessary purpose. 

Sometimes the community decides that a particular law no longer accurately reflects its intended purposes and so people unite to lobby or advocate for amendments to affect improvement or changes to existing legislation.

We all make mistakes and we don’t always adequately consider the things we might do and say and what their effects on other people may be. It’s what we humans do. We don’t always say or do the things that we should do or intend to do.

Anyone can make an error and find themselves in prison; unless the law exculpates particular classes of people. We can’t control or predict the future and we can’t artificially change or force whatever is meant to be. If it’s meant to happen, it will happen!!

Even the people employed by the prisons may not have ever imagined themselves working in a prison, not in a million years, and yet they are doing it.

As people often can and do, we can feel unreservedly confident telling ourselves, and others, that we would never ever do what another person did.

We tell ourselves that if we were there, and if we were them, if we were under whatever exact circumstances that they were under, we would have done something entirely different, perhaps even magnificently (ego), or that we would never have even put ourselves in such a position to begin with!

We can believe this to be true with every little bit of our blessed and passionate hearts.

One year, 2 years, 10 years down the track, we may find ourselves in the very same predicament, despite our beautifully noble best intentions.

It’s not always easy to commiserate with someone else’s unique situation because we may not want to even imagine it!!!

We may judge people far too harshly to ameliorate our own fears because we don’t want it to happen to us.

Rational thinking is something we decide to implement because it feels safe. We can use it to stop ourselves from having those uncomfortable feelings, such as fearing an unknown future.

We might tell ourselves that people in prison did something stupid and so they deserved it, that they invited whatever tragedy has befallen them. Too bad, too sad, not my problem.

This is what reason free from passion looks like, and reason that is divorced from passion is dangerous because it can unwittingly promulgate statutory interpretation which is lacking in compassion. 

It is dangerous if we don’t allow ourselves to care about the plight of others, if we tell ourselves it doesn’t concern us because it’s about “them” and it’s not about “us”.

If we allow ourselves to believe such concepts, we are saying we are superior to others and we won’t feel compelled to act as conscientious and caring human-beings. We won’t desire to be instruments of change. We won’t care to assist people when they are vulnerable and need help.

Injustices occur because we allow them to happen, it’s our fault, and all of that is rational thinking. We blame the victim that has been hurt for not reporting the crime or for not acting like a victim appropriately. All rational.

Only it doesn’t feel rational to all of us because what is rational or reasonable to someone else might not be rational or reasonable to me or to you. 

When rational thinking is divorced from passion we become dispassionate and then call it rational thinking. Couldn’t we also say that by choosing to be dispassionate we are not expressing the best parts of our humanity; such as our kindness, compassion, empathy and love for ourselves and each other?

Natasha Stone