The Danger of Emotion Over Memory

To live is to remember. To die is to decay in emotion. We have become lost. We value inconsistent emotion over verifiable shared memory and the result of that dissolution of appropriate duty is the loss of cultural immortality as a cogent people.

Memory is verifiable, static and enduring. History, families and the law are all examples of human-made things that endure beyond the self.

Emotion is fleeting, selfish and temporary. Revenge, love and surrealism are all examples of the danger of emotion in human lives because emotion is never forever and emotion is, by design and intention, unstable and unenduring. When we are controlled by our emotions, we lose perspective, rationality and reason.

We become minions to impulse and the angry cure. We throw ourselves into pits of passion to die flaming, volcanic, deaths.

When we are guided by what has come before us we realize through the muscle of memory that we have never been alone in our struggle to give definition and texture to the darkness.

We understand we do not have to feel something first in order for it to be true. We are able to build upon the ideas of others without having to invent notions of our own that have already been explored and defeated. We choose rigid, rough, facts over soothing and fleeting tendrils of illogical behavior that can never be quantified or pinned down to a truth.

Those who define their lives in emotion mock those who mark time with memory.

Is it possible to reconcile those who live the furious end with those who respect the inevitability of provenance?

38 comments

  • Hi David,
    What a lovely piece. You express the sentiment (maybe bad choice of words, but I mean the “thought” definition) so well.
    How many times do I find myself telling others “Don’t get emotional,” or “Don’t let your emotions get in the way,” and then I do not follow my own advice.
    It really makes me angry when people ignore history, e.g., those who pretend the Holocaust never happened.
    Donna

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  • Hi Donna!
    We are forever in danger of being quashed by our emotions or the emotions of others. There are few people who are able to step back and take a long, historic view to gain perspective on a current threat.
    The young seem to be the most cursed with emotion. It seems many believe, “if I don’t feel it, if I don’t experience it firsthand, I won’t know it.” I suppose the community elders play upon that folly of the mind of youth or no one would be willingly sent to their deaths in service to the Homeland.

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  • Hi David,
    On the knife of the Hitler Youth Core was engraved “Duty, Honor, Blood.”
    Who could forget the documentary films with the youth marching in step during one of Hitler’s parades? It is a haunting image.
    I feel for the young soldiers in Iraq and their families, who want so desperately to find a way to justify the youth being there. Unfortunately, the “writing on the barn wall” has changed too many times– WMD, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the latest, Fight the Terrorists.
    Faith healers like Benny Hinn, et.al., prey on those who are seeking a miracle cure as a last hope.
    Donna

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  • Donna –
    I thought the Hitler knives only said “Blood and Honor” — “Blut und Ehre” — where there others that added duty?
    Did the world have a memory to a time before the rise of Hitler to warn them against that rising storm? Or was the Third Reich such an anomaly that the entire world had to experience it to burn it into memory?
    I agree our solders in Iraq are in for a long spoil. The 2004 election confirmed we will have no change in our imperialism any time soon. I’m hearing on the news today that we’ll have a “second surge” in September to fight Iran and be at 200,000 American forces in Iraq by December.
    Unfortunately, the Democrats are too happy to go along and not impeach because they know the war is a loser and they want the Republicans to drown in their own blood. Unfortunately they will drown in the blood of our dead soldiers and Iraqi citizens.
    Snake Oil is always an interesting business. It is built on emotion and memory is a direct threat to its sustenance.

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  • Hi David,
    You are correct about the inscription on the knives. I confused it with the Pledge of Allegiance, “I promise to do my duty in love and loyalty to the Fuhrer and our flag.”
    The website I searched was
    I think Hitler was an anomaly, and the German people gradually moved toward grasping his insane vision.
    Donna

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  • Hi David,
    Sorry about messing up the link, but it’s there nonetheless.
    Donna

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  • Hi Donna!
    I love it that you’re making these HISTORICAL CONNECTIONS OF MEMORY! I thought it would have been so fascinating if “Duty” had also been inscribed on those blades. That word adds a whole new dimension to their mission.
    I think Hitler was, in many ways, a surprise against history. His cunning and advertising and manipulation and ferocity for killing were so unlike anything experienced in the modern world many were fooled by his platitudes until it was direly too late. You don’t fight a Hitler with emotion. You fight him with the memory of wars won and victories lost.

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  • Thanks for the link, Donna! Your link looks good!

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  • Hi David,
    “Duty” might as well have been inscribed on the blades, at it figured prominently in the brainwashing of the Hitler Youth. It is amazing to read some of their mottos and sayings (listed at same website cited above), battle cries, really, that are oriented around Hitler been a supreme god. He really became a religion to them and he used emotion to exact loyalty.
    Donna

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  • Isn’t that the beauty of Hitlers, evil genius, Donna? He looked beyond the men and women and went after the malleable young minds and gave them something greater than themselves to believe in — he became their prescient Godless master Godhead.

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  • Hi David,
    Yes, you are absolutely right!
    A quote from Hitler (from the same website):
    “I begin with the young. We older ones are used up. We are rotten to the marrow. We are cowardly and sentimental. We are bearing the burden of a humiliating past, and have in our blood the dull recollection of serfdom and servility. But my magnificent youngsters! Are there any finer ones in the world? Look at these young men and boys! What material! With them, I can make a new world. This is the heroic stage of youth. Out of it will come the creative man, the man-god.”
    Hitler argues that the older people are sentimental, but in reality, the older people did have a memory that he was probably afraid of, whereas the youth in their innocence were ready to buy into his emotional discourse.
    Donna

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  • Fascinating stuff, Donna.
    Now we are forced to wonder what goodness Hitler could’ve done if he had that brilliant mind turned to lighting the world instead of plunging it into darkness. That success would’ve made his dream come true. Germany would’ve ruled the world.

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  • Hi David,
    Emotional decisions are usually not the best decisions made. Of course, our country is often run by people (from all sides of power) who love to make emotional decisions based on polls taken by people who so busy with the requirements of their daily lives that they haven’t had the time to study the issues. We end up with many silly laws because emotion and speed trumps rationality and memory.
    In history, we always seem to repeat the same mistakes over and over. But there many be some good news as we seem to be learning from recent history in the Middle East and have recruited our own foreign fighters to handle some of the problems over there, instead of sending in more of our own forces, if an ABC News report is correct.
    On the other hand, a headline on ABC News’ homepage about American warships gathering off the coast of Iran as Americans are held hostage, Jimmy Carter speaking about U.S. foreign policy and ultra-high gas prices bring flashbacks of the greatest hits of 1979.

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  • Chris –
    Yes, polls and politics are all about emotion. There was a time in our recent history when the politicians, once elected, realized the silliness of the election process and put it all behind them to make sound laws in the best interests of the country. Now? Not so much.
    I fear we’re in for a dangerous treading in Iran. I think Cheney and Bush lust for an invasion there because it will keep them, and us, engaged in the Middle East for years to come, proving their notion that the area was a threat to our national security.

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  • I think a comment went into Akismet …

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  • Uh-oh, Chris! There’s nothing from you in moderation or Akismet! Can you repost?

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  • Mummmm … That’s strange. Here’s a second try.
    I re-read the Iran report and it is interesting how we might not be learning from history, but repeating it. Here’s a news quiz: Who is the architect of today’s Iran secret war?
    Just as we’re spinning the tunes from 1979, we queuing up some of the greatest hits from the 1980s for everyone’s pleasure.
    Isn’t it always interesting how the same people — no matter what the party — always seem to pop up at interesting times.

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  • Hi Chris!
    Emily was caught, but not caught, last week. Sometimes comments can just disappear, I guess!
    Why did you use a PNG graphic on your website as a link to a news article?
    You’ll have to fill everyone in on the answer to your news quiz!
    I am believing more and more in a Shadow Government. There are 20 people who run America and none of them are elected and they’ve been in power for the last 30 years.

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  • Hi David,
    I used the PNG because I figured the page would change in a couple of hours after I made the post as new stories were loaded. The story of interest was the one with the headline “US Flexes Muscle Off Iranian Coast As Iran Holds Americans Captive.” A direct link to the story shows a different headline, so that wouldn’t have had the same effect as the headline that brings up the 1979 feelings when it was day after day of hostages being held in Iran.
    The answer to the newsquiz is Elliot Abrams of Iran-Contra fame. He got into trouble for his activities in the 1980s with running secret wars, was pardoned, and is now back in charge of a new secret war.
    We’ll know that the Shadow Government is in charge if we continue to alternate between Bush & Clinton family members in the presidency. (When President George Prescott Bush is sworn in after 8 years of President Chelsea Clinton, we’ll know that something is afoot). I remember someone telling me that there was no difference between Clinton and anyone else during a discussion in the 1990s and that all major presidential candidates are screened for suitability by the powers that be to continue to further their interests. I thought he was crazy and paranoid. But, if you look at the educations, associations, and backgrounds of all of the major players, you see that they all went to the same schools, were in the same clubs, and all know the same people. Even the candidates who seem to be talking about the little guy and poverty have been bought and paid for through their work with Wall Street mega businesses and million dollar trust funds.

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  • Chris!
    Okay, I get it now! It took me awhile to figure out I was looking at an image and not a web page! I couldn’t understand why the links weren’t firing! :grin:
    Oh that’s just so crazy, Chris. Abrams is back and in the secret spotlight again! Gah!
    I agree we’ve had enough Bushes and Clintons forever. It’s time to put away the scepter and pack up the crown and move away from the imperial presidency. We are all too wounded for the effort. Wipe them all away and bring us someone new to chew up and spit out! :grin:

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  • Hi David
    Don’t forget that memory can be manipulated (both by others and by oneself) and can lie when we misremember things.
    Emotion can sometimes provide a clear, intuitive, pointer to the truth.
    I think there is room for both – it’s just not always easy to recognise which we should listen to.
    //Mike

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  • Hey Mike!
    I think we need to agree that memory, to be effective, must be correctly remembered or the truth of the history is lost in the false embedding.
    How does emotion provide paths to the truth?

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  • Hi David,
    It is easy to be guided by emotion rather than fact, – in context of a collective society.
    History repeats itself, mostly because of emotion.

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  • Hi Katha!
    I agree that emotion is more valued in our society than logic: “I feel your pain” is more universally accepted than, “I understand your argument.”
    I agree it is emotion that clouds logic and forces us to relive the incendiary past.

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  • Sometimes our emotions and intuition are ahead of our thoughts. I have no idea how or why – possibly they are accessing memories that we don’t consciously recall – but it’s happened to most people: you get a “feeling” for a person or situation which turns out to be spot-on.
    Of course whether you listen to it or not is up to you ;)
    Have you read “Blink” buy Malcolm Gladwell? That deals with the same concept, although I think he pushes it a little too far.
    //Mike

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  • Oh, and how do you know if any particular memory is accurate?
    //Mike

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  • Hi Mike –
    I don’t put much human value in intuition — mainly because you only learn of its wonders after the fact. “Oh, I KNEW it was you on the phone before I picked up!”

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  • Mike –
    Memory is more accurate than emotion because the memory we’re talking about in the article is one that is shared, proven and recorded.
    Memory: “Hitler burned Jews in ovens.”
    Emotion: “Hitler was a bad person.”
    The memory will never be untrue; the emotion may very well be overturned.

    Like

  • Hi David
    I’m not so much speaking of the “who’s calling” type of psychic intuition – I find that slightly dubious at best.
    Let me give you an example – by trade I am a software developer. It happens fairly frequently that there are a number of ways to do something, none of which has any major advantage over the others, or all of which have slightly different pitfalls or advantages.
    This is a pretty common scenario and one when it is necessary to make a reasonably swift decision so we can get on with the actual development. It will often happen that I (and I know other people) base their decision on a feeling that one of the solutions may cause problems whereas another won’t. This is usually backed up as we get further into the project and discover subtle complexities that would have caused us issues with the abandoned solution.
    As I mentioned, although this might be an emotional decision I strongly suspect it is based on some hidden memory or piece of knowlege that we don’t consciously remember.
    I do know that in these cases it’s usually worth listening to your intuition.
    I might also dispute that information obtained from records cannot be classed as memory. We can obviously check our facts this way and be more sure of ourselves but when we rely solely on our own memories it can become confused between similar events or people, or even with fragments of dreams. I know there have been occasions I’ve thought I’d done something and later remembered that I had actually dreamed it.
    //Mike

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  • I think we’re talking about different ideas, Mike. Thanks for the comment!

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