Most people commonly assume happiness is better than sadness. “Why are you making me cry?” one my add after watching a sad movie or reading a sentimental card. They fight back sad emotions and the ensuring physical responses.
Why? Why do we innately fight off sadness? Did our primeval ancestors do the same? Is it a survival instinct? Do we instinctively know it is a dangerous path that can lead to despair? Do we avoid despair to the point of missing the gifts of sadness?
There is certainly danger in entertaining sadness. It is extremely powerful. It has the potent ability to disable or shut down our will. It can lock us in ourselves. Yet oddly, the lack of letting it access us will always lock us away. It seems we need it.
Perhaps there is another way to look at the quotient. Perhaps joy (the penultimate kind which is the apex of the human condition, even beyond emotions) is sadness and happiness properly combined, where infinite and finite meet.
Perhaps our human emotions are not quite capable of interpreting the “data” of true joy. Perhaps the word transcendent or transcendence was created to explain things that uniquely combine or simply ascend beyond typical human emotions.
And perhaps emotions are not really separate from our minds and our ability to interpret what is happening? In joy, we experience something of a light-headedness. Our head spins. We are literally pulled up in a trancelike state of awe and wonder.
Think of a beautiful sunset view, the perfect song at just the right time, the overwhelming feeling of oneness at the end of a great movie. We are left only with what the great writers and poets have called joy, the perfect human emotion.
Joy is the place where infinite sadness and perfect hope meet. It is the place where we have accepted the hard realities of life without giving over to despair; where we have forged our way through courage into a new reality we know not yet.
Sadness is rather a sane, rational emotion in a broken world. No matter one’s philosophy, to believe the world is working perfectly is simply ignoring so many heartbreaking, gut-wrenching realities. Things are broken.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t some beautiful things about life. It doesn’t mean gratitude is not sane (may be a required attitude for survival). But it does mean that some people lead a rather bleak, destitute life void of comforts, care, or relief.
Now it is true that every human has a fundamental freedom to choose their attitude. But some have had that freedom brutally deformed. Some have been abused from early on. Some have been birthed for money only. Some are left for naught.
Humans acclimate to their surroundings. Yes. One born in the bush does not long for air-conditioning he has never experienced. Yet still there are injustices in the world and those who suffer more directly their consequences than others.