I've been thinking lately that we humans aren't as complex and mysterious as I'd originally supposed.
I don't know whether this is a consequence of getting old or reading a lot or constant reflection, but whereas I once saw humanity as a wellspring of unnameable feelings and urges, I now see us as relatively simple creatures, propelled by but a few urges, usually misdirected, and capable of experiencing only a couple dozen different emotions.
This is a rather dismal view, I think, and I've been wrestling with what to make of it. First, as already mentioned, I'm not sure whence this view comes. Maybe it's a symptom of living in a materialistic technocracy. A man's environment, after all, shapes his perception. And it seems our world would have us believe we are little more than machines, for in believing such we behave as such. Alas, we behave as such whether we believe it or not.
Secondly, and even more unsettling, is that this view often renders life a bore at best and absolute drudgery at worst. I've experienced nearly all there is to experience. The only thing left to savor is that trickling alteration of perception that distills with age. For example, the other day a friend and I sat on a park bench and about a hundred feet from us, in the shade of a tall tree, a teenage couple kissed. It appeared to be their first kiss, and my friend said something to the effect of, "They'll never again know that feeling, now that it's occurred." And I replied, "What about this feeling, that of watching youth's first kiss, having lived it 30 years ago?"
"Humph," my friend agreed. And we sat and watched in reverence and awe. What on the surface appeared like nostalgia for a past feeling was in fact a new feeling altogether. And so this is what we have to look forward to as we age: subtle variations on what we've lived. Vicarious experiences felt anew.
But the grand emotions have all been felt, by me anyway. I've indulged in just about every taboo there is, partaken of all the mind-altering substances, accessed whatever is available via money. I've visited the other extremes too, felt the joys associated with asceticism and nature. Others have gone bigger, sure, but it's all relative. Like you, I've been ecstatic, afraid, terrified, ashamed, lustful, bored, motivated, tired, fervent, disgusted, sympathetic, excited, and happy. And this on repeat for 40 years.
It makes me sad to feel like I've got us pegged. Just simple creatures alternating between a few emotions brought on by our compulsion to obey a few drives. How do so many find elation in the chase, like puppies after tails?
There is a silver thread in this gray cloud though, and it is this: if what I once thought was an infinite wellspring of meaning and mystery is in fact nothing more than the random flux of a few automatic drives and emotions, how much easier it should be to artistically expose and represent.
A goal to chase. Which makes me happy.