“Love is a state of balance,” I say to the nearly empty lecture hall. “A person can hate a thing he loves; there’s no contradiction in both loving and hating a thing. Man was made, I think, to experience both pleasure and pain, fear and amusement, intense like and intense dislike. Without a balancing of polarities, nothing would ever be known.
“I think the whole of human experience fits inside a perfect circle, and all emotions are its diameters. The two points at the outside of the circle are the two possible extremes, and the center is nothing–zen-like, right?–but we’re never there, neither filling to the edge nor fully balanced in the center. Our selves are each some blob made out of the measures of our placements for each category, mapping our experience of the infinite possibilities of our emotions.
“I can’t accept the notion that humans only have several basic emotions and that all non-basic emotions are just mixes of the basics. We experience life in polarities, not in vectors, and saying all rage is “anger” is like saying morose just means sad: the statement itself may be technically true, but some technical truths abuse the Truth.
“That’s why the semantics here are important. It matters that love is not an emotion. Love is a state, and it weathers emotions, or it bears them. In fact, love is the circle and contains within it all the polar possibilities of our experience. The more capacity we have for love, the larger our circle grows, the more extreme our emotional possibilities. The absence of emotion is death; curtailment of emotion is to live like the dead. That’s why I can’t accept Buddhism.”
“What do you mean,” she called out from the peanut gallery, “that you can’t accept Buddhism?”
“I mean–” I started. I paused and took a breath, pacing behind the podium before reapproaching.
“I mean: If Buddhism were about experiencing all that life has to offer and realizing the emotions are just emotions and there’s a greater existence we can have separate from them, then great. I mean, that’s life, and that’s live, to participate in everything life has to offer and still maintain a balance, that from minute to minute life just happens, and there’s nothing particularly binding about any of it but us and our narratives and our dreams.
“But that’s not the Buddhism we’re studying in class. Buddhism is about minimizing suffering, and I can’t accept that. Suffering is part of the human experience, and we can’t just dismiss it and say that all we want is pleasure. If we live without suffering, we live without pleasure, too, and that’s not balance, that’s nothing. To live life without active participation, to passively wait for all interference to leave and to call the void balance is to turn our back on part of life. And, and maybe even to reject God himself.
“I mean that there is no pleasure without pain. There are no smiles without tears. We have no peace without strife. To minimize suffering is to minimize all, and to minimize all is to reject life even to the point of death.”
She called out: “You’re a dualist!” I think she was smirking, but I was too busy formulating to see.
“I–no,” I stammered, hesitating, considering. Augustine was a dualist. Fantasy writers are dualists. I believe in more than light and dark, good and evil, life versus death. “There are twos and threes to this thing: There is what you can be and what you are, and what you can be has poles and what you are is a point between them. In the ideal, there’s two. In practicality, there’s three.”
“Dualism,” she answered.
“All numbers can be reduced to multiplications of twos and threes. When you break the world down to its most basic parts, it reflects this basic truth. It is divided into multiplications of two and three.”
“But you said all things are three!”
“We don’t experience all that life has to offer all at once. There are factors that we’re missing in every day.”
Now I know she was smirking: “Are we denying God in all the thing we miss?”
“I–” I started again, but stopped, considering. “I believe so. Life requires both balance and participation.”
“Yes,” she answered.
“We must pursue both all that life has to offer and a balance.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Negation and suppression are rejections of life and God.”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Balance and participation are worship of God.”
Yes, I felt her agreement. She stood and began shuffling out of her aisle seat and moved towards the stage.
I continued: “All that matters in life is that we’re on the circle and that we exist as averages on each line. We can’t help but do that except through avoidance and rejection. To participate in one’s own life is to live in worship. To avoid aspects of one’s own life is to live outside of God’s promise, which is to live without the act of worship.
“The more we grow in God, the more capable of participating in our own experiences we become, the larger our circle grows, the more effort required but the more experienced we must are at finding balance, at finding God’s peace.”
Face to face on the stage, she said, “Yes,” and cupped my cheek in her hand. She led me from the room, and we continued our adventure.