I had an argument on Saturday with a friend about how much 23 minus 19 is.
I know that in many respects that’s a weird thing to fight over. I mean, maths isn’t traditionally something you can argue about. Either the answer is, in this case, four, or it isn’t. Not a lot of grey area there.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the fight was my fault. Instead of valiantly defending the Truth (otherwise known as the right answer) I got the answer wrong. And instead of conceding defeat immediately when the contradiction arose– like I normally do when it comes to anything maths related (usually at this point of any numbers disagreement I feign astonishment at the idiocy of my error) – I stuck to my guns and defended my figure. However, when Liezl’s face dropped in astonishment at my stubborn stupidity (“Are you serious?” she asked), I blushed and dropped the issue.
This little incident made me re-realise that scientists need to speed up the whole bionic limbs process. I need a calculator built into my arm. Seriously. I’m very reliant on cellphone calculators, and people that are good with maths. I trust others completely when it comes to things like the bill. I know I would never screw anyone over, so why would they do that to me? <Insert lecture about Sam’s naïve foolishness here.> Anyway. Once I had latched onto the concept of useful bionic extras, it occurred to me that maybe the next ‘must have’ (after the extremely popular bionic Calc-U-L8ter, as it’ll be marketed) will be an emotion modulator. I’m not talking about an emotion remover, like the pills Christian Bale drank in the movie Equilibrium to wipe him, and society, clean of all feeling. (By the way, I watched American Psycho the other day. Bale’s hotness factor went down considerably after I saw him chasing a woman with a chainsaw. Euch.) No. I mean an emotion modulator.
It’ll let you choose what to feel, as well as how intensely you feel it. Think about it, it’ll revolutionise society – and the world! No anger, no jealousy, no hatred. Petty emotions that cause only pain? Gone. Simply fiddle with the settings on your Feelings-B-Gone modulator to eliminate those negative emotions. Wars would be a thing of the past!
Or would they?
Maybe wars would become more ruthless and cold. Age old, irrational hatred would disappear with a swirl of the dial on the modulator, but wars aren’t just started over hatred, racism and anger. Cold, greedy calculation also comes into play. I’m sure governments would make all soldiers turn their emotion dials to zero – no emotions. No compassion and caring. The war machine would no longer be an analogy, but a reality. There would be no pause before a trigger was pulled, and no ceasefire before the war was won. The rationality behind the wars, as well as the wars themselves, would be ruthless.
But let’s think about this on a smaller scale. Individually. Would you choose to never feel sad again? I’m an emotional eater, I know that. If I never had any bad feelings, I’d be skinny as a rake.
No depression, no suicides – the psychological industry would take a knock! It would be kind of weird though, to live in a society where people feel only neutral or happy. Everyone smiling all the time? Creepy!
Now imagine the effects of the modulator on love.
With heartache as an option instead of a risk, would people love carelessly, or more carefully? Maybe people would choose to only love those that are suitable to them. You know, compare interests and life plans, then turn love ‘on’ if you matched. (Oh, you also like rom coms and sunsets on the beach? Great! I find you compatible. Love is now ‘on’.)
And then if things don’t work out – say, someone gets a job offer in Japan – you can just turn love ‘off’. Wouldn’t that be nice? No niggly, lingering feelings over an ex. It ended, it’s over, voila. No longing, no yearning, no unexplainable feelings circling, circling, circling. The ability to be completely and honestly OK, all with the turn of a dial. If I could choose who I loved, when I loved them and how strongly I felt for them, I’m sure I’d be a happier person. There would also be no fear, because if the person you loved didn’t return your feelings, your pain would last only as long as it takes to turn a dial. You could confess feelings – new or otherwise – easily. Like ordering a drink in a bar. Because rejection wouldn’t hurt like the son-of-a-bitch it does.
But if you could control love, there would be no epic romances. No Romeo and Juliet, no Elizabeth and Darcy, no Heathcliff and Catherine (yes I know those are all fictional characters, but they all illustrate the potential for Great Love). If you could control Love, could it still blossom achingly slowly between friends, or be nurtured date to date between a couple certain only of an attraction?
If you can choose love, it is love?
I’m sure maternal love would become compulsory. It’d save the state a lot of money if all mothers loved their children and cared for them. Then you get the love of a sports team. Without sadness, you have to ask, would sports games still be worth watching?
Well, we don’t have emotion modulators. Sports games are still packed to the brim with sadness, ecstasy and anger (I watched the game on Saturday with people who cared who won. Wow. Kind of scary how intensely people feel about stuff like that.) Romance is still the most dangerous game out there, leaving the most casualties, wounds and scarring (if you look at it like that, love shouldn’t be legal, really). All we have is our own, limited, control.
We do have some control, you know. You can, I believe, choose what I like to call your ‘default mood’. It’s easy to be pessimistic and depressed. This sounds so lame and motivational, I know, but I really believe that it’s possible to choose to at least be open to happiness. I’m not always as happy as I appear, but I try to be. Often my pretend happiness makes other people happy, which makes me truly happy. Happiness is contagious. “A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it,” said Oscar Wilde. Well, I’d rather be a grapefruit than a lemon, though, quite honestly, I’d rather be an orange than a grapefruit.
Mmm, now I feel like fruit salad. What were we talking about again?