Coffee table take on reflections
I got a chance to meet a college friend today for coffee. As always, it is great fun to meet people you know and catch up :) Soon we were talking about things we did in college and things we want to do, now that we are out of it. She is very interested in education. It seems she had spent a large chunk of her final year teaching underprivileged children and she had employed some unusual tactics to get them interested. They were quite fascinating... One of her exercises was asking the students to record every emotion that they felt during the day. Even though this sounds like a ridiculously easy thing to do, upon careful thought, I realized that this was a potential mine-field!
"How do I feel ?"
This is one of the eternal questions of life. Sure, you can substitute a mundane reply to this question eg after lunch, you can say you are feeling full or after running in the field all day, you are feeling tired etc. But feelings are not decided just by the activity or inactivity of the previous hours. I think feelings are more complex than just being the shadow of the world upon our minds.
My friend had been teaching 9-12 year olds and I think that's the age that we start to inquire about things. For kids younger than that, life appears like passing along through the windows of a moving train. Forever adrift and filled with wondrous images but they never stop to inspect much. More importantly, they don't stop to reflect on how the world has affected them. Kids start doing that when around 9-10 years old. They start asking questions about why they like this color or dislike that fruit. They start questioning about household rules and arguing against dos and don'ts. They start to question the world in a most delightfully innocent way. That process of reflection and analysis continues to grow and flourish for the rest of their lives.
One thing that struck me immediately was that our feelings towards an incident or a place are not constant. They keep changing and evolving as more experiences enter into the melting pot that is our mind. For example, a song that I found myself loving when I was in high school, visibly mortifies me today.
Blah. I am rambling. Asking to record every emotion of the day is a tricky business. Maybe if there was a way to map the different emotions you have over time towards a particular thing, you can then draw an emotional spectrum for it. This emotional spectrum can then be compared with people of similar age-groups from different parts of the world. It will provide insights into the emotional digestion of stimuli by people across the world. I am sure that will make for a fascinating study.
One emotional spectrum that comes to my mind is a rather morbid one. But it does prove a point. But I wonder whether something similar will be feasible for more mundane things such as a flavor of ice cream.
Today Twitter offers an exciting way to study public perceptions and emotional responses. Even though it may not be individualistic, but it is a great estimate for collective emotional feedback. Apart from providing great entertainment value, twitter is fast becoming an emotional reservoir for mankind. And I am sure a lot of research will take notice of it.
One of the fundamental characteristics of us humans, is that we reflect on the world around us. Out of such reflections, we arrive at character definitions. From good character stems the urge to act. From actions alone, do we change the world. Mapping emotions can definitely help us understand this cycle better and figure out what makes a genuine, concerned and caring individual.