Kaleidoscope is a song about faith and emotion.
It is about a faith that finds beauty woven into the fabric of the universe, and how our emotions, both “good” and “bad,” have the potential to make us aware of this beauty and move us toward it.
A song about faith and emotion
Kaleidoscope: a song about faith and emotion
Are some types of emotion bad? If a person has a strong faith, will it make a difference in how often that person feels sad, or angry, or anxious? I have heard people say that if you have a faith in a powerful God, it can (or even should) reduce these types of emotion. For example, they may say, “put your trust in God and there is no need to feel anxious or sad.” Aside from the question of whether this is actually possible, is this even desirable? Would this type of faith – a faith that eliminates sadness, anger and fear – motivate us to seek things that are good and beautiful in the world? It is possible that if these types of emotions were stripped out of faith, the faith would become ineffectual, passionless, and lifeless.
As described on the page titled “What is Progressive Faith,” I propose that faith involves a belief in goodness and beauty in the universe. It is my hope that this type of faith can be shared and understood by people from diverse religious backgrounds as well as by people who do not consider themselves to be religious. It is a faith that is awestruck by the beauty of the earth and by the profound complexity of life and of physical laws revealed through scientific discovery, and that sees goodness and beauty woven into the very fabric of the universe. The song “Kaleidoscope” is about this type of faith. It is also about how human emotion may play a role in this faith and how emotion can increase our awareness of beauty and goodness.
All our emotions may have useful functions.
It is common to think of different types of emotion as being either good or bad. Pleasant emotions (such as joy) are often viewed as good, and unpleasant emotions (such as anger, fear, and sadness) are often viewed as bad. However, all types of emotion, even the unpleasant ones, may have potential to be valuable and to move us closer to understanding goodness and beauty.
It is likely that our emotions are a product of human evolutionary history. This means that we have evolved to experience emotions because they serve adaptive functions. Anger can help people stand up against exploitation or abuse. Fear can make people run from danger. Sadness can lead people to seek support and comfort from others during times of loss. Joy can motivate people to pursue things that are valuable. Even in relationships with people we love, emotions may be necessary. For example, expressing anger may be necessary to produce mutual respect; expressing sadness may be necessary to produce intimacy, and expressing joy may be necessary to produce commitment. Although some emotions are unpleasant, a relationship without the full spectrum of emotion, including both pleasant and unpleasant emotions, would be a shallow and lifeless relationship.
In addition, our emotions can tell us about the things we value. They help us make decisions by providing us with fast and powerful information about the things we want to pursue, the things we want to escape, the things we value, and the things we hate. I do not need to spend time contemplating whether I want to pet a growling guard dog, or pick up a crying infant, or run when I am late for a meeting. My emotions provide me with immediate information about whether these are things I want to do. If I think it is extremely important to be on time for that meeting, I will experience anxiety if it looks like I may be late, and this anxiety will help me make a quick decision about whether I should start to run. In this way, my anxiety tells me how much I value being on time for the meeting. Similarly, anger tells me how much I value something that appears to be threatened by another person; sadness tells me how much I value something lost, and joy tells me how much I value something gained. This means that if I am attentive to my emotions, it will bring the things I value into sharp focus.
Emotions give us feelings and experiences that amplify the importance of the things we value.
When we value beauty and goodness, then our emotions may move us and motivate us to draw closer and closer to that beauty and goodness. When there is exploitation or injustice, feelings of anger might motivate us to act. When people suffer or when the natural beauty of the earth is destroyed, feelings of sadness may increase our awareness of the things that are precious in life. When there is peace and kindness, feelings of joy may strengthen and sustain us. These emotions draw our attention to the things we value, and they motivate use to pursue, protect, and preserve these things. On the one hand, it is certainly true that emotions sometimes lead to destructive outcomes. For example, sometimes anger leads people to engage in violence, and sometimes people experience joy from actions that exploit others. On the other hand, all these emotions may also be necessary for good. Specifically, they may be essential for moving us closer toward goodness and beauty.
Whether we move toward that which is beautiful or move toward that which is ugly, it is often our emotions that move us.