Friday, June 1, 2012

Spanish, the Metric System, and Logic vs. Feelings - Becky

You know what? I like Spanish. There is still a lot that I need to learn, but I feel pretty good about what I do know so far. I still find myself saying "huh?" a lot and getting stuck because of holes in my vocabulary. However, I am able to have meaningful conversation with my Spanish-speaking friends, and I really only use a translator for things that are "official" and "important." Lately it has been coming so much more naturally to me, even to the point of me having to stop myself from speaking Spanish with people who speak only English. When I learn new things about Spanish now, it is easier for my brain to figure out what to do with them. (¡Gracias a Dios! y muchas, muchas gracias a mi buena amiga Tania, quien es mi maestra de español.)

The thing is, Spanish makes sense. Sure, there are many things about it that are confusing because I am not used to them, but overall Spanish is pretty consistent. The vowel sounds are always the same. Consonant sounds are (pretty much) always the same. There are pretty straightforward rules (más o menos) about which syllable of a given word gets the emphasis. Once you know all of these rules, it is not too difficult to read something in Spanish and be able to pronounce it correctly. Compared to English (which is crazy and incredibly inconsistent), Spanish is fairly simple. In fact, I would even say that it is a pretty logical system of language.

Why, then, does it take so much work to learn it? Also, why doesn't everyone in the States learn it? (Just to be clear, I'm not saying that everyone should learn it necessarily; I'm trying to prove a different point, so stick with me here.) After all, it is the language of one of our neighboring countries. I've decided that it's like the metric system. It's logical and may even be better in some ways than what we're currently using, but most of us aren't willing to stop using "feet" and "degrees Fahrenheit" because they are what we know. It doesn't matter that "meters" divide so nicely by tens and hundreds and that "degrees Celsius" line up with the freezing and boiling points of water; we just want to keep doing what makes us comfortable.

The point I'm trying to make is that, as much as we may like to think that our decisions are guided by logic and reason, we are sentimental beings. We get so attached to our current norms that we tend to reject other ways of doing things, even if the new ways make more sense. We do make changes in our lives, but not because of logic (most of the time). We change because we have a sentimental reason to do so. I never would have bothered even to try to learn Spanish if it weren't that I have already given my heart to people who speak it. I'm still resisting the metric system... and I don't even have a good excuse.

This reality makes me wonder what other good things I may be stupidly avoiding—or stupidly holding on to. What personal habits are detrimental to my health but I continue to practice anyway? Are there any people with whom I could be really good friends but who I just feel uncomfortable about approaching? Do I have any "pet" spiritual ideas that make me feel good but don't actually jive with reality? If I answered all of these questions honestly, I could come up with a pretty long list of changes to make in myself. But, as a typical human being, unfortunately, for me to bother to start the process of change, I need more than just rational arguments to do so. Something must appeal to my heart and not just to my head.

But, I think that God set things up that way. This is not to excuse bad behavior at all (because we know that we need to do the "right thing" regardless of our personal feelings at the moment). However, God made us all emotional creatures, and it would behoove us to take note of that. God never said that logic is always good and emotion is always bad. In fact, many things about God Himself are quite illogical. It is definitely not logical to send a son who loves and obeys you perfectly to die for people who constantly reject you. It's even less logical to have created the world in the first place, knowing that you would have to make this sacrifice.

I think I would be worried, though, if everything about God were logical. I mean, would I really want to worship someone who was small and "neat" enough to fit inside my limited, faulty brain? Yes, there are some things about God that do seem logical to me. If the rule is that sacrifice must be made for sin, it makes sense that the death of a perfect person could be enough sacrifice for the whole world. But, I don't believe in Jesus because it makes logical sense to me; I believe because my faith is personal to me. As a missionary, of course I want others to come to put their faith in Christ, but I know not to expect much from making logical arguments. There has to be some kind of personal connection. I would even venture to guess that most people who are decidedly not Christians are turned off from Christianity more because of negative personal experiences than simply finding Christianity illogical. Like I said, God isn't quite logical, and I don't think we should go around trying to make Him so. Just like I only started learning Spanish for personal reasons, most people will only believe in God for personal reasons.

This is not to say that logic has no place in spiritual matters. We should use logic with emotion for the best results. It's jut that most of the time we aren't using logic like we may think that we are, and we need to recognize how important feelings are in ourselves and in others. Logic can present us with ideas, but it is our feelings that cause us to do something about those ideas... And I think that's okay.

What do you think? These are certainly just my opinions, and I would love to hear some other perspectives.



  1. I love it, Becky! You have motivated me to actually work on a post about emotion, rather than just drop bits and pieces of thought here and there. I agree with your general points, and would argue that what we call "thought" is some combination of logic and emotion together. And I totally agree with the point you made on my blog that both logic and emotion should be controlled by the Spirit. In fact, that is my main conclusion on the (now-only-semi) mythical blog post I am going to write:).

    1. Thanks, Kim. :) I will definitely be glad to read your hopefully-soon-to-be-non-mythical blog post.

      I have actually had the idea for this post rolling around in my head for a few weeks now and only got around to writing it last night, so it's funny that you were talking about these things anyway on your site. I guess maybe that's what got me to write this one finally. :)

  2. Logic, emotions, physical feelings, the Lord God made them all!

    I was at a human trafficking conference this weekend where the subject of how we choose to take action was discussed, Becky. One speaker said that most people are not motivated to action by data or statistics (principally appealing to logic) but by empathy (principally appealing to emotion). That's why some charities have so many pictures of kids on their brochures, for example.

    Good job contributing to the conversation.


  3. Exactly. I admit to using the "sad children" thing on a lot of my group's materials. It's so incredibly cliché, but it works. Also, to tell you the truth, even "in the field" a lot of times it is the kids around here that help to provide motivation to keep doing stuff. (There are so many of them around here and they are so cute!)