Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 3 Why Do We Cry At Weddings Part 2 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Symbolism Integration
Part 3
Why Do We Cry At Weddings Part 2
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Bride&Groom Pray Before Ceremony
Without Seeing Each Other

Previous Parts of Theme-Symbolism Integration


And this is Part 3 of Theme-Symbolism Integration - as well as Part 2 of Why We Cry At Weddings.

It is said that laughter is a response to pain, the edge of the zone of pain, the prospect of pain -- a tickle is a sensation that can escalate into pain, but doesn't, yet it sets the nerves on fire and we laugh, giggle, flinch away just as if it were pain.

Emotional pain works the same way -- the tickle of the edge of a painful emotion sizzles through the nerves and jerks out a bark of laughter. 

Like a sneeze, laughter is a reflex: the nerves fire, the muscles respond, on a sliding scale of intensity.

Last week, we discussed Vulnerability -- how a writer does not need to understand precisely where their reader is vulnerable to evoke emotion in the reader, but a writer needs to understand the condition of vulnerability. 

A tickle on a vulnerable spot can be experienced as pain. 

"Salt in an open wound" is an example of that.  Ordinarily, our skin doesn't respond much to salt -- though enough salt on the skin for long enough dehydrates and puckers the skin.  Scrape the skin a little, then trickle salty sweat over the raw spot and OUCH!

The most vulnerable spot people today have in common is, I think, the knotted ball of symbolism that grows out of Religion (all of them; not any particular one). 

Bride Praying Before Ceremony
Religious people are viewed as stupid, or at least uneducated, and who wants to be viewed that way?  So we have a lot of people who seriously believe in God, but disavow all Religion because Religious people are stupid.  Some of these have convinced themselves that they don't believe in God, even though they do.  Some accept the idea of Souls and Soul Mates, but not God. 

We seem to be in an epoch of human history where our penetration of understanding of Nature, of Stars, and Planets, Galaxies and Particles, Dark Matter, Strings, and even Life On Other Planets, is finally becoming common knowledge.

In general, even just a High School education exposes people to the miracles of genetics, neurology, disease treatments and even cures based on our understanding of nerve cells, and the brain as a whole.

Even Sanity is coming under scientific scrutiny.  Out of body experiences can be explained by brain activity.  Many severe psychological conditions can be treated by daily medication, and more miracles are in the works.

We can solve anything.  We are just animals with a little more brain matter than most. 

In many ways that is a very comforting thought, and it leads to clear positions on various difficult matters such as Abortion, Death Penalty Crimes, the morality of War, and how to perform Charitable Deeds (or not).  The list of today's dilemmas seems endless, and most of them are easily resolved once you understand the world in terms of the human brain's electrochemical base.

You don't need God to get married, or have children -- in whichever order you choose.

Even people who go to Church a few dozen times a year to salute the Unknowable Infinite still live their everyday life in a totally explicable Knowable world.

We rely on that scientific view of reality, base all our decisions and actions on it, and feel confident that we know what we're doing as responsible adults. 

Saturn rules Science.

Neptune rules Romance.

Saturn rules bones.

Neptune rules the Soul.

Bones exist - we know that.  Souls do not exist -- we're pretty sure of that.

Yet we search for, and often find and marry, our Soul Mate.

When we fall in love, we FEEL a new sensation on a vulnerable part of the psyche -- it is a loss of virginity, a new sensation, a new set of nerves connecting and sizzling with a message.

Pain and Pleasure are the same thing -- nerves stimulated in a pattern.  One we flinch away from and try to avoid; the other we pursue and try to repeat. 

Where we are vulnerable and tender, very faint stimuli register as intense.  Where we are calloused from repeated stimulation, even the most intense stimuli are barely noticeable.

As physical creatures, we seek stimulation as validation of our existence, of life itself.  Experiencing a response to stimulus is essential to our well-being.

The louder the music (however pleasurable), the faster it deafens (callouses) you. 

Sex works like that.  The more frequent and unrestrained the sex, the more intensity you need in order to feel it. 

Taste works like that.  The spicier the food you regularly eat, the more spice you need to taste anything at all. 

Smell works like that.  If there's a bad smell in your house, you get used to it and your best friend won't tell you how your clothes stink.  You wouldn't believe it, anyway.

What you are used to becomes imperceptible -- yet we seek perception. 

The term is "Jaded Palate" -- if you have a jaded palate, even good things don't seem noticeable.

So how do we, as writers, sneak around to the back door of our readers' Soul and tickle them? 

The main tool we use to get through our reader's thick callouses and pierce their Souls with emotions they can not name is Symbolism.

But randomly chosen symbols will not add up to a story.

Working against each other, randomly chosen symbols produce an undifferentiated fog of gray.

Choosing symbols specifically to explicate a particular Theme produces sharp contrasts, black and white, yellow and red, green and orange.  Emotions work just like colors. 
Armenian Couple Crowned & Blessed

There are Seven Colors in the Rainbow -- and Seven Primary Emotions.

The writer's creative medium is not words, not computer word processing, and not even imagery or poetry -- the writer's creative medium is Emotion.

Naturally, there's a lot of argument over classifying human emotion! 

In early 2014, The Atlantic published this article headlined:

New Research Says There Are Only Four Emotions

Conventional scientific understanding is that there are six, but new research suggests there may only be happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

-------------end quote------

This theory is in contravention to the accepted model of 6 Primary Emotions: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad. 

There is a more classic list of 7 Basic Emotions -- Anger, Contempt, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise.

In 2012, Discover Magazine carried a story about defining humanity's 7 primal emotions by studying rats and making them laugh.


---------quote from Discover article------------
Since the 1960s, first at Bowling Green State University and later at Washington State University, Panksepp has charted seven networks of emotion in the brain: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY. He spells them in all caps because they are so fundamental, he says, that they have similar functions across species, from people to cats to, yes, rats.

Panksepp’s work has led him to conclude that basic emotion emerges not from the cerebral cortex, associated with complex thought in humans, but from deep, ancient brain structures, including the amygdala and the hypothalamus. Those findings may show how talk therapy can filter down from the cortex to alter the recesses of the mind. But Panksepp says his real goal is pushing cures up from below. His first therapeutic effort will use deep brain stimulation in the ancient neural networks he has charted to counteract depression. Panksepp recently sat down with DISCOVER executive editor ?Pamela Weintraub at the magazine’s offices in New York City to explain his iconoclastic take on emotion. His new book, The Archaeology of Mind: ?Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotion, will be published in July.
------------end quote----------

See?  Just understand the brain, and you are master of life, the universe, and everything.

There really is nothing else.  Right? 

We can research, re-invent and re-define our Primary or Primal Emotions, and re-arrange ourselves and our lives any way we want.  A little electrical stimulus fixes everything.

These articles on the brain and emotions make perfect sense to us.  What more do you need to know? 
So now you know, can you explain why you cry at weddings? 

If Grief is a Primal Emotion, then it's obvious why we cry at Funerals, isn't it?  Grief is personal, and composed of feeling sorry for oneself at the same time as feeling what it is like to be the person whose life has ended.  How will your life end?  Is there any meaning to anything we do?

Clearly grief is uncomplicated and thus Primal.

Notice the absence of LOVE as a Primal emotion.  Is that absence congruent with your model of reality? 

Now look at this Kabbalah inspired article on the 7 Primary Emotions

The seven emotional attributes are:

Note how each of the 7 Primary Emotions listed on that page is composed of "cross-terms" as they say in math, or harmonics as they say in Astrology, or how an artist mixes colors to make new hues, making a palate of 49 Emotions which these exercises are designed to mature.

With maturity of these emotional states, the corresponding negative emotions cited in scientific articles are absorbed and dissipated by the light of these powerful emotions.  One's internal emotional climate shifts -- yes, climate change -- and the world seems brighter.  And the burst of tears at weddings becomes more explicable, perceptible as a glimpse of something too bright to look at directly. 

Click the links on the page to find the mixtures, which make it easier to sort out the melange of emotions causing that Cry At The Wedding outburst. 

Note this list starts with LOVE.

It starts with Loving-Kindness.

What does it feel like when someone looks at you with Loving-Kindness in their eyes?  I know you've seen it, but have you ever named it out loud?

Also note that LOVE is a component of every one of the other 6 emotions in the list. 

This 49-element model of human emotion uses LOVE as the power-source behind all emotion. 

You can't act in Justice without Love, and so on.  Love is the primary component, the origin and the source powering all others. But look at what "all others" includes -- but most especially does not include in this list of 7 Primary Emotions that combine to drive the human spirit.

Also note Grief is not on the list of 49.  Nor Fear.  This 7-Emotion paradigm depicts a totally different Reality than any of the other lists of primary emotions.

So think hard.  Is this portrait of Human Emotion more akin to your own internal primary emotions?  Does this depict your reality, or the reality you glimpse at the moment you burst into tears at a Wedding?

You may want to buy the following book which explains (though that's not what it was written for) how to create plot-events or symbols from these abstraction emotions. 

In this book:
Which you can also buy on Amazon:

...each of the 49 individual Emotions discussed comes with a do-it-today exercise that is a challenge to your ordinary way of looking at the world.  These exercises, done in this sequence, strip calluses and leave vulnerability. 

To find out when the Omer is counted, search the App store (iPhone or iPad, probably Android too) for Omer.  Or the Android store.  There are lots of free apps, and some with in-app purchases.  An app usually uses your phone's local time to alert you to the day of the Omer being counted.

Starting with Passover and going 49 days to The Feast of Weeks, each day contains a plot-twist, and each annual repetition is no repetition at all, but rather a unique experience in learning about Emotion. 

You've heard the term "Emotional Intelligence?"  This exercise is preparation for an Emotional Intelligence test. 

There is a mystical (Kabbalah) tie between the day of the Lunar calendar and the action suggested in the exercises.  The idea is that doing that particular exercise on that specific day amplifies the effect the action has on your Emotional Intelligence in a way that doing it at another time would not have. 

The greater your emotional intelligence, the more effective you can be as a writer orchestrating emotional responses in your readers by using concrete plot-actions coupled with symbolism.

With that understanding grasped, let's get back to Weddings as a plot-Event.

As previously noted, the Romance part of a character's story is generally over at the Proposal.

But sometimes the hottest Romances start with a Wedding scene for mutual friend or relatives where the couple first meets -- during or after one of those Crying At A Wedding moments.

Eyes swimming, they see each other through rose-colored tears -- all the sharp edges and harsh lines of character flaws blurred out, and Loving Kindness sweeps them off their feet.

Now why do we understand the Crying At A Wedding moment to be a natural prelude to meeting a Soul Mate? 

If you've never seen it happen, never heard of it happening to anyone you know, still you find it an acceptable postulate to kick off a Relationship driven story.

Another good moment to start a Romance is at a Funeral -- during or after the crying, and desperately trying not to cry scene.

Likewise, there are meetings over a parent's death-bed, in a Court Room awaiting a death sentence, at the scene of a car accident, by the ambulances in front of a house going up in flames, amid the rubble of an earthquake or bombing in a war. 

These are moments of peak emotion, moments when the whole nervous system is in fear-fight-flight mode, constant orientation response mode.

These are not normal, everyday, get groceries and pick up the kids from school moments. 

The emotional peaking stretches the old emotional scars and calluses that ordinarily cover up our emotions and blunt the ability to respond to minor incoming stimuli.
These are moments of vulnerability when we can let another person "in" and give of ourselves in ways we ordinarily do not.  Connections can be made at such moments where the cracks in our emotional armor are spread wide.

Emotions welling up can crack that shell from the inside and leave sensitive surfaces exposed, vulnerable.

That happens at Weddings, and other Life Event Ceremonies.  Retirement ceremonies work.  Presidential Inaugural, or swearing in ceremonies. 

But just feeling emotion welling up doesn't cause that very odd, very peculiar and distinctive flash of tears common to the "Crying At A Wedding" moment.

Commonly, the tears well at the moment Bride or Groom says "I do" (or whatever they've written).

Or at the giving of the token (symbolism) - traditionally a ring.

Or at the first kiss -- which is likely not the very first, but is the first as a married couple.

The tears burn up out of the eyes at the moment recognized as "Everything Just Changed."

This is the moment the Future morphs, partly because of what the couple did and partly because you recognized the shift in Reality. 

We live in a state of taking things "for granted" -- of relying on assumptions.  We understand science, we understand ourselves as mortal animals governed by a complex brain - and that's it.

We just can't handle all the variables necessary to envision reality on many levels, extending along many axes, beyond infinity.  It's too much.  We can't work the problems of our lives with too much information.

So we cut down on our perceptions, hide behind emotional callus, and won't admit there is anything there that we are not feeling the presence of.

In these peak moments of life, though, the callus cracks, stretches open and exposes the tender flesh that can feel the "salt" -- the foreign substance -- hear the faint whisper of mystical Presence -- smell the whiff of the Garden of Eden -- taste mana. 

I'm using Biblical references because most readers will understand them.  But this ultimate truth perception-shift happens for everyone of every faith (atheist, too). 

You can use the Wedding Tears as a symbol to move your readers because it is common across all belief systems.

It is a moment in which some people experience confirmation that their Beliefs are true, not beliefs at all but really True-Truth, and that is astonishing and too painful to encompass.  Such a discovery is always followed by flinching away from it -- as if it were painful.

It is also a moment in which some people experience confrontation with the knowledge that everything they believe about Reality just is not true -- or not as complete a picture of Reality as they thought.

Either way, the callus cracks, like the clouds parting and letting sunlight into a dark day -- and we wince just as when sudden light in darkness causes a reflex to close our eyelids.

It is a "pull the rug out from under you" moment, a moment of astonishment when nothing you thought you could depend on actually works.

It is the moment between being shot and noticing that you're dead.

It occurs at that point where pleasure and pain join, where the scream of pain and the shout of laughter are indistinguishable. 

The physical nerves "white-out" and something else continues to perceive .... something.  It isn't the universe as you know it, but the universe unfiltered by your defending calluses.

There is the Uncertainty Principle -- where the observer changes the observed by the simple act of observing.  By noticing that The Future Changed at the moment two souls join, you have changed The Future.

Hence weddings must have Witnesses.  The act of Witnessing is the act of changing.

And that is not possible in the World As We Know It.  Just because I see you does not change you. 

Yet in some other Reality -- yes, it is true.  Two Souls mate and the Third Soul composed of the Two United is changed by the observation of the Witnesses.  So who witnesses can change the course of the marriage.  "I danced at your wedding," makes a difference.

Reality itself warps during these Life Event moments (and with our population in the billions, there are lots of such Events every moment the Earth turns).  Reality warps again as the moments are witnessed.

You've heard the phrase, "Don't look! You can't un-see this!" -- often applied to a gruesome accident or an atrocity. 

Once you have witnessed something, it becomes a part of you and can change the direction of your life.  Hence WITSEC - the Witness Protection Program.  You see it; you testify; you can not be the same person anymore or they will kill you for testifying.

The same is true of Weddings.  The knowledge that you are no longer the same person causes the tears -- grief for who you used to be, joy for all the new possibilities in your life, and maybe Love of God or whatever you deem the source of that searing brightness that lances into your vulnerable cracks.
Is it God?  Do you need to postulate that God Is Real or to admit the Soul is Real to understand why you cry at weddings? No, you don't have to.  It is one explanation that works fairly well for some people, but not the only one that covers all the observations.

Few come away from a crying jag at a wedding convinced that God came down and married these two Souls.  In fact, most people would think you crazy for saying that. 

Most people can point to sentimental reasons, memories of other weddings, realization of hopes for the new couple, poignant sorrow at the failure of their own marriage, cynical foreknowledge that this new couple will likewise part, and a piercing hope that, "No, not this time!"

So many mixed emotions clashing with each other create quite enough almost-pain to account for the buckets of tears shed at weddings down the ages.

Compare the tears shed at a Wedding with the burst of tears when you witness (even via TV) a heroic act, or a life sacrificed to save another, perhaps a helpless baby.  Compare the Wedding sensation with witnessing an Event such as how the USA responded during the 9/11 Attacks, or someone's worthy deed being given a worthy award.

Consider any movie or novel that you cried through the last ten minutes or twenty pages.  Finally, finally it all comes out right in the end and your faith in human nature is justified.

Each of these moments speaks in symbols, in traditions, in customs, in passing the torch to the next generation and finding them worthy - in symbols that affirm the continuity of human civilization.

Those symbols, arranged just-so, blindside us with a stab of hot emotion too searing to bear for more than an instant.  Just as when the dentist drills into a tooth and your eye waters, something from outside your callused shell breaks through to exposed nerve and you FEEL it.

That "It" that you feel may as well not exist in your life at all before and after that moment, just like the dentist's drill is always in his office but doesn't always hurt you.

What is that "It?"  What is it that comes through your cracks and hits a nerve in those peak moments of life?

Those who are bored at Weddings, or do not cry or feel deeply (maybe only come to get drunk?) may simply be too afraid of the nascent pain to let their calluses crack open even a little, to let that sensation happen to them. 

Naming that "It" gives you a Theme.  Shrouding that "It" in symbolism gives you a way of explaining what that "It" is to your reader, who may be one of those bored at a wedding type people. 

We see that "It" as "light" -- the kind of Light by which the Third Eye sees.  The wince away from that Light at Weddings is the Third Eyelid squinching shut after Witnessing the souls joined.

The "light" is so bright, the flash through our cracks so sudden, we can't See what's behind it, what's causing it, what's emitting that Light.  To us, it is only "It." 


"It" is amorphous.  To make a novel out of "It" manifesting in this world, you have to Name it. 

Your thesis for your theme is a Worldbuilding element.  In this World where these Characters live, Magic is Real, Evil is Palpable and Profitable, Good Always Wins (or Loses?).  Those are themes you never state in words, but mold into the fabric of your World. 

What is the "It" that intrudes at Life Ceremony Moments? Name that "It" and the name becomes your Theme.  "This is a World where "It" is (God, Devil, Demons, Angels, Aliens).  Each choice is a statement about that theme, and dictates the symbols that will be meaningful to your readers.  

Weddings have symbols and traditions for a reason. 

Use that reason even when you have your couple write their own vows and create new traditions.  Every tradition was done for the first time sometime.  Not all first time traditions last more than a generation.

One way to research current traditions is to search Pinterest for Wedding, Bride, Bride and Groom, and related keywords you can think of.  Wedding Planners and Photographers and Caterers are using Pinterest to present their services, and encourage innovative Weddings that won't bore the guests.  You can use their posted images to develop the symbolism in which to discuss your Theme.


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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