For years, I have been fascinated by the suggested advantages of operating in a purely logical, emotionless manner. Pain, or rather the lack thereof, tops the list. Physical pain is something that I have never had much trouble shutting off, manipulating, ignoring, but emotional pain is an entirely different and far trickier beast. At some point, I arrived at the conclusion that the most workable answer to this tenacious variety of pain was to cease to feel emotion – most logical, is it not? – if you cannot feel, you cannot feel pain. The appeal is obvious, and I endeavored through most of middle school to exercise complete control over my every thought and response. I like order, and I found my own mind’s failure to display it infuriating. By imposing unbreakable self-discipline, I could make myself into something machine-like, something perfect. (Middle school me spent a bit too much time reading old science fiction and not enough time interacting with actual people.)
Needless to say, I failed.
I am, after all, only human. Spock had his Vulcan side to help him out, and even he struggled continuously. I was, however, left with a question – what defines humanity and can that trait be lost – and a realization – dear God, I need to get out more.
I think that pain is an integral part of what makes us human. We highly value social ties, and they define us to a great extent. Yet to care about another person is to invite their pain. To trust is to be vulnerable to betrayal, to love is to be vulnerable to rejection. To care is to feel the pain of another even when it is not directly your own. Society is founded on the sharing of pain, and relationships are founded on the belief that lowering your defenses and relinquishing some control is worth being able to get closer to someone. We tend to avoid pain when possible, but so much of our meaningful interaction with others seems to come down to risking and accepting it. And we tend to be happier around others.
So when we lose the compassion that makes us capable of relating to others, when we lose the emotion that makes others capable of relating to us, do we cease to be human? Is it possible to be satisfied with feeling nothing and having no one? A truly logical, emotionless individual would be unquestionably alien to any of us. They could look completely human, they could perhaps have once been completely human, but their thoughts and actions, though we might be capable of comprehending them, would seem monstrous. Their lack of empathy and understanding would be infuriating and best and quite hurtful at worst. They would simply be too cold. Too inhuman. Were someone ever to truly achieve such a state, it would be only after every trace of their humanity had been burned away. Their logical perfection would be grotesque.
And what would it be like to be such an individual? Lonely, no doubt. How could you stand to be around other people? Their laughter, their tears would strike you as pointless, false. You would watch them move through their lives as if from a distance, unable to touch them, and isolation rarely does good things to the mind. Logic would grow twisted and contradictory, even that shining tool you had so desperately wanted would turn against you. First you would hate them, then you would hate yourself. And having distanced yourself from everyone, who would there be to stop you from hitting self-destruct some day?
Poor Spock. It seems so attractive, doesn’t it, the idea of eliminating needless interference, of exchanging senseless emotion for cold reason. A pity it does not work. A pity it will never work. A pity that making it work would destroy you. At least you have middle school me to commiserate with – she’s pretty disappointed too – assuming that either one of you is willing to admit that you feel disappointment.
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