I rewatched an old favorite this week, Equilibrium. If you’re not familiar with it, think 1984 meets The Matrix. It’s a timely tale about a future that is practically at our doorsteps: black-coated enforcers dispatch “sense offenders” with ballet gunplay and thinly disguised Nazi flags fly on every corner and the Mona Lisa gets incinerated by a flamethrower because it makes people “feel.” Isn’t that where our world is heading?
All kidding and choreographed violence aside, the movie does explore an interesting premise: is mankind’s “volatile nature” worth the risk? In the film, the populace is controlled by frequent doses of Prozium, a capsule drug that essentially smothers all emotion. As the governmental figurehead named Father declares, “At the cost of the dizzying heights of human elation, we have suppressed its abysmal lows.” Anger, hatred, depression, and malice are anesthetized along with joy, excitement, love, and kindness. People are machines, not feeling anything one way or another, even if their friends or family are arrested and executed for sense offense.
Taken from a purely humanistic standpoint, there is an element of truth to this notion. If cold, hard logic reigned supreme in the hearts and minds of every person, there would be a lot less crime and bad decisions. Even the members of the Resistance, an underground society that refused to take Prozium, agreed that “without control, without restraint, emotion is chaos.” They claim that feeling is what makes life worth living, but this is a very subjective point. Someone would argue that the powder keg of emotion is worth the risk because it gives life a spark, even though it may turn into a raging fire, while another person would say that it’s too volatile and unpredictable, so just get rid of it altogether.
As our society marches further away from God, it actively seeks to deny the gifts and blessings that He gives the whole world, to believers as well as unbelievers. Emotions are one of these gifts, but in our fallen state, they have become corrupted. The Bible says that the heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9, Mark 7:21), and it takes only a moment of self-reflection to see what the mess of our feelings and desires. It also takes only a moment to look with disgust and horror at a world ruled by its emotions and appetites and see how far the depravity of man can carry itself away from God.
We know that the root of this depravity is not emotions, but the fallen sin nature of everyone that ever lived, apart from Jesus Himself. Yet the world cannot accept this truth, so it invents new ways to explain it away and new balms to soothe the wounds. In contrast to films like Equilibrium, the trend seems to swing the other way, to hyper-emotional release. The internet is a deafening beehive buzzing with vented feelings, outbursts of rage, sensory overload, and wanton gratuity. Even in casual circles, being vulnerable and open with one’s feelings is a virtue held in higher regard than being the “strong, silent type” and having “a stiff upper lip”.
What is the result? Emotionally immature adults, fractured relationships and families, impulsive neurotics, unfiltered mental data dumps, offending people at every turn, and most importantly, increased self-idolatry. Would this be solved by emotional dampers? No, because the root would still remain. A perfect utopia does not depend on everyone getting along and having the same thoughts about everything, nor is it found in unrestrained self-expression.
“Follow your heart” is terrible advice. Follow the One who made your heart.