Friday, January 23, 2009

AUGH! What is that crawling through my MIND?!

Oh...it's human emotion...I get it.

When they are born, children have three starter emotions:

Happy
Sad
Afraid

That is not to say that more complex feelings don't exist in the under-5 set, but those are the three that kids can point to first: I am smiling, I must be happy. I am crying, I must be sad. I want to run away, I must be afraid. They are the ones a child can lay claim to and try to explain to the other, bigger versions of itself - the parents. Later on, they develop a broader vocabulary for emotion. Happy might give way to Joy, Sad might evolve into Lonely, and so on. Until those words and delineations grow, however, Happy, Sad and Afraid are what kids have to work with.

And what a terrible position that is. No grey area, just black and white. When the two cross streams what on earth do you say? Does a four-year-old know how two express the strange internal conflict that might accompany a blend of Happy and Afraid? Or Sad and Happy?

It is because of this that I think most of the initial physical sensations arising from emotional response are attributed by children to fear. Why not? With no real words to categorize Fascination or Yearning or Elation, the pounding heart or the trembling hands (both possible side effects of all three of these) must be fear, mustn't they? Now add in the desire to return to the very thing which seemed to induce panic before and we have a real a quagmire.

This is how we grow emotionally, I suppose (or at least evolve enough to try to communicate those feelings to others in a more specific way.).

(ALSO: Feelings are a pain in the ass. I like being happy or content - everyone does. Longing, despair, confusion...even anticipation, love, etc. Christ. The clinical part of me is curious and always taking down notes about my physical response to such things, but being over taken by intense emotion makes me feel crazed and out of control. Scads of self-help books are full of encouraging notions to "Let the innermost self be free to express the beautiful colors of emotion!" and in many regards, I agree. Sure. Let fly the international color guard of agony and exultation. But honestly...can I get some sleep while we do it? Can I just quit shaking so much when I'm angry or amorous? I'd be much obliged.)

A while back, I was trying to explain to a friend the absolute FEAR I felt upon seeing Freddie Mercury for the first time.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (Queen, in my opinion, being the second greatest band ever.) In 1979, when it hit the airwaves, I was 5 years old and it was just about the most amazing thing I had ever heard (and still is. It is among my ten Unruinable Songs.). A few weeks later, on a television show called Night Flights - this was pre-MTV- they aired the video for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Before this I had never seen so much as a photograph of Freddie Mercury:



I stood, motionless and barely breathing. What was that feeling?

Fear. I attributed it to fear. It must have been, right? My heart was pounding.

Freddie Mercury was a strange looking fella. Especially to a 5-year-old who hadn't the faintest ideas about quirky sexuality. What the crap was that?

Years later, when talking about a "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" I mentioned that Freddie Mercury scared the hell out of me.

Scared?

Yeah, I was terrified.

Scared, really?

Well, you know...confused, attracted, repulsed, fascinated...

So not scared.

Oh. Well, no. I guess not.

Since then I have been revising my general list of childhood fears. Was I really afraid or simply unable to parse the bundle of emotional responses in a complex way because I didn't have the vocabulary?

Here are some other things that I used to be "Afraid of " but now I realize that it probably wasn't fear at all. Included is what I consider the actual emotion today:

  1. The painting of a lone man on a dock in my parent's den (Actual feeling: Curiosity, Loneliness)
  2. The Logical Song by Super Tramp (Actual feeling: Dread, Apprehension, Resentment, Urge to dance)
  3. Richard Chamberlain (Actual feeling: Confusion)
  4. The animated Watership Down (Actual feeling: Helplessness, Burgeoning realization of own mortality)
  5. Previews from the movie Somewhere in Time* (Actual feelings: Why is Superman in this movie?)
  6. The cover of Billy Joel's Album The Stranger (Actual feelings: Anticipation, Secrecy, Fascination)
  7. Vintage cover art of a giant robot with a man in its palm. On the finger of his other hand, was a bloody red spot. The man in his palm was dead. The Robot looked confused. This was in a book of vintage comic covers my parents had. If I can find it, I'll post it here. (Actual feeling: Remorse, regret)

I'm sure there are plenty more irrational attributions to fear. Perhaps I'll add more later on.



*Which I still did not see until I was 33.


UPDATE: As Joe g points out in the comments section, a version of the picture I was referring to in item 7, was used as the cover art for Queen's album News of the World:
The original painting was first used on a magazine cover for Astounding Science Fiction in 1953. This is the one that was in that book at my parents house. The look on the robot's face is the part that captured my imagination, so to speak. Even looking at it now makes me uneasy.

5 comments:

joe g said...

Hey, jj, isn't that last item actually the cover art from Queen's landmark "News of the World" album?

Dave said...

two things:

1. what's the first greatest band ever?

2. i'm still waiting on my three artistic influences. do it to it!

-goose

-j-j- said...

1. The Beatles - as wholly unimaginative as that may be. Wouldn't it have been awesome if I had said Nickleback?

2. Augh! I'll publish them forthwith!

Erica said...

Holy crap, that robot pic is frightening.

My confirmation word is "delesses" which of course makes me think of that woman in her black bra on the mural at Deleece. Dammit.

joe g said...

Cool, I hadn't seen that Astounding Science Fiction cover, that's really awesome. I love old sci-fi magazine cover art. Thanks for posting that.

So, I should probably request my three influences as well!

 
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