You know what the Buddhists say? Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent… But detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it…Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions – if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them you can never get to being detached. You’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then you can say: “Alright, I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” – Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
While listening to various perspectives about worship music, one speaker made the point that we have cheapened the concept of love one another, and using the same lyrics, the same melodies, the same phrases to speak of love for God cheapens our love for him, too. We feel things on a shallow level and express our emotions on a shallow level and never go too deep.
Growing up, being an emotionally even keel person was advantageous. One never wanted to be the kid that cried or got angry or admitted fear – for these are all strong emotions that the other kids will never let you live down. Another element was stereotypes, there was one that required boy to be less emotional than girls, but girls never wanted to be a walking stereotype of being emotional at the drop of a hat. Little kids tended to tolerate only so much emotion from one another and it was far too easy to be called out and made fun of for being too emotional. I don’t think it was possible to not be sufficiently emotional. As a society, we’ve trained ourselves from a very young age to never feel anything too deeply and to never display deep emotions in public.
I keep on thinking about how that song “I surrender all”; how it brought a man to tears enough to stop the music in the middle of the song. He was emotionally moved. Absolutely everyone else was not. You see, we chase emotional experiences in worship because we’re not allowed to have genuine emotional displays in most public contexts. We’re expected to raise our hands, sway with the music, and release some emotion at certain points of some songs – so it’s like a pressure valve letting out a bit of steam. But only so much – there’s such a thing as too much. We’ll make everyone around us embarrassed to be with us, it’ll be awkward for the stranger next to us, it’ll interrupt the musicians and singers, and besides, grown-ups are supposed to always be in control of their emotions.
It’s a shame, too – because Psalms and Song of Solomon are colored by emotions of all hues and intensities. Love, hate, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, despair, and most of all – passion. I would not describe most Sundays as passionate. They’re routine and ordered – we ordered emotion right out of worship because our culture places a premium on emotion. We don’t feel fully and that’s what makes it difficult to worship God fully. We can’t always – and we shouldn’t always – keep our emotions at arm’s length, they are a part of what it is to be human. We need to accept them and to feel them fully so that we can take all of that energy usually used to deny our emotions and put it to other tasks – like really praising God.