A few months ago I was reading a book about Paris in World War 1. There was a throwaway sentence about a poet who met someone in a train station to transact some business. He couldn’t go home or to his office because he felt he had no time. He had no time because he was furious to get to the front.
I can’t remember the poet from the book but it struck me strongly. Here was a young man so full of promise but to him the only thing that mattered was getting to the front to kill the enemy. Do you think that he asked himself what his desired outcome was?
His emotions were so strong that effectively he’d been given a lobotomy. Nothing else mattered. We don’t live in those times and the emotions they engendered are foreign to us now. The extreme emotions this War created are puzzling. It wasn’t just hatred(although there was plenty of that). There was a Messianic tone to the descriptions people gave(at least on the Allied side). This was the War to End War. This was the final solution. France and England would crush the tyrants and emperors and eradicate the evil of German-Hungarian war mongering.
This kind of non thinking generated an ethos that rewarded fervency. Reason didn’t exist. As I’ve said before the Great War had generals that were so bad that stalemates were guaranteed. One of the reasons this War is so hard to understand is that no one had a desired outcome in mind, except to win. When emotion rules goals don’t exist.
Strong emotion is the enemy of clarity.
Emotion has its own logic. It wants what it wants and right now! Damn long range consequences. Tragedy is the child of strong emotion. Emotion creates a haze that it hard to see through. Lust, anger, hatred all create a storm of chemicals inside us that can negate all we’ve worked for in a few moments.
The Great War set the stage for all the tragedies of political life in the 20th century. Our political agendas are still set by the logic of emotion.
Clarity is demanding clear vision; the absence of the hazed vision. Crystal sharpness that sees the path we need to walk to reach your goal.
Abandon strong emotion when you want to be clear.