My Five Favourite Emotions

by dpreyde

1. Empathy

I’ve selected these five from a list of emotions on Wikipedia, and I wouldn’t personally consider empathy to be an emotion. I don’t know what I’d consider it, but I believe it is essential, and one of the only things that really matters.

Empathy allows human civilization to function. Without it, we’d all be living in the wilderness bashing each other’s heads in. I also believe that empathy is the quality that makes us human.

There has been some evidence that other animals are capable of empathy, and plenty of evidence that some humans are not capable of it. Does this mean that some animals could technically be classifed as human? Well, maybe. A few weeks ago, a neglected monkey was determined to be a “non-human person” in a court of law, so there’s some legal precedent here.

As for humans who can’t experience empathy, I see no problem with putting them in the equivalent of a wildlife sanctuary.

2. Love

This is way too general; there are so many different forms of love. But if empathy is what allows us to live together, love is what makes that togetherness worthwhile.

If it wasn’t for love (and also curiosity, not considered an emotion by Wikipedia) I would not be able to exist in society.

There’s so much fucking noise you have to deal with when you’re surrounded by people all the time. Not just auditory noise, though that’s certainly a major component, but everything. Society is so smelly and dirty and just loud in every conceivable sense. But I love art, and I love junk food, and I love my family (not necessarily in that order), and that’s why I haven’t run off to the woods. That, and the sad but inescapably true fact that I would be messily devoured.

3. Hope

Can you imagine life without hope? Every single setback and I’d be up on a bridge, tears streaming down my face. Hardware stores would be forever sold out of rope. There’d still be a colossal lineup of people at Niagara Falls, but for a very different reason.

Hope is so utterly irrational. So’s despair, but somehow, more of us feel more inclined to be hopeful. Why are we so ready to believe that tomorrow will be better? But we all believe it. If you’re reading this, and you’re not curled up in a ball in your bed, you believe it, too. And I think that’s wonderful. It must’ve started out as a survival thing somewhere along the line, but it’s blossomed into something sillier and more profound.

4. Euphoria

I remember back in grade eleven when I experienced seasonal affective disorder for the first time. I had no idea what was going on. All of a sudden, in the middle of November, I started feeling lethargic, draggy, and irritable for no real reason. Eventually it passed.

Then springtime hit, and holy god. I felt waves of euphoria- impossible, dizzying emotional highs that I’d never previously thought were possible. At one point I was pretty sure I’d stumbled upon the meaning of life. I wish I could remember what it was.

After that, I experienced euphoric periods every spring until I started undergoing light therapy five years ago. And, for some reason I still don’t understand, I experienced blasts of euphoria at other times, too. Unfortunately they’ve leveled off in the last few years as I’ve become a more consistently happy, well-adjusted person. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

5. Wonder

So curiosity isn’t an emotion, but wonder is. Okay, I’ll take it.

Like euphoria, wonder is a hell of a lot of fun. It adds pep and zing to your days. It adds depth and richness to the human experience. But there might be something more important to wonder than just having a good time. I think that- like hope- it might be a crucial way of experiencing the world. Our capacity to experience wonder might be constantly pushing us forward as a species, to try more and do more. I’m constantly wondering what’s around the next corner, and I feel compelled to find out. I wouldn’t want to live without that compulsion. It’s entertaining to work out the answers to all my questions, sure, but I also think that the process might make me a better or more complete person.