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Imagining a world without emotion

During the Thanksgiving holiday, we had several "family movie nights." One of those nights, we watched a movie called "The Giver." After watching the movie, I reflected upon many things, which I intend to share in this column.

The movie is about a world in which all emotions, memories and use of certain words have been taken away from people, births are designed to meet certain requirements and being different is not allowed, with the purpose of creating a world without conflicts, where everyone would be and behave the same. A world in which everyone is watched every second to make sure rules are followed and where those who do not fit in the standards, or who question or refuse to follow the rules, would be sent to "the land of elsewhere," a disguised name for "killed with compassion." It was, literally, a world in black and white, where even color, which makes all things different, was prohibited, or forgotten.

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The Giver, which until that moment was the Keeper, was the only person different from the rest, a person who holds all the memories and all the emotions that the rest have forgotten, a person with the responsibility of sharing all that information with one designated teenager chosen to be the next Keeper. This person is chosen because he shows special qualities, such as strength, courage, curiosity…someone who shows signs of being able to see things differently from the rest.

As the movie progresses and the Giver shares all his memories with the Keeper, he starts to question all the world around him, and he starts to allow himself to feel happiness, love, pain, sorrow, empathy, frustration, courage and all those feelings that, well, make us humans. That is when he realizes that by trying to create a "perfect world" in which no arguments or no conflicts would happen, humanity was also taken away, and they were more "living robots" than humans, functioning under pre-designed commands, but not really living. Even though he was afraid at some point of all the "unknown" emotions he was experiencing, of all the destruction and the sadness that he witnessed, he embraced the ability to feel them. He understood that it was a gift to be able to feel, that all those little things forgotten — the smiles, the tears, the kisses, the laugh, the pain and sorrow of death, the love, the colors, the music and everything that we sometimes take for granted — were actually a gift that he couldn't keep to himself and decides to share it with the rest of his world.

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As I watched the movie and heard my children saying how they would never be able to live in a world like that, with pre-determined "feelings" and words, where being different and feelings were not allowed, I thought about how sometimes we live like robots too, with no emotions.

I thought about all those times when we are driving and don't let someone pass in front of us, being willing to almost crash, just because we want to go first, because our situation is probably more important than theirs. I thought about how sometimes we see someone extending their hand asking for money or help and we decide to keep walking and not help, because in our minds that person is probably responsible for their own circumstances; after all, we have made it through life, so why can't they? I thought about how sometimes we are incapable of feeling empathy and just putting ourselves in the other person's shoes, even if just for a minute, because in our closed minds we are right and they are wrong.

I thought about all those times when we are quick to judge others because of the way they look, or speak, or the country they come from, without taking a moment to stop the pre-judgment and just think what could possibly be going on in that person's life, what opportunities in life have we had that they may not. I thought about how we live disconnecting ourselves from what happens in other parts of the world, because if it does not directly affect us, why should we care, right? We have too much to care about closer to "home." After all, it's happening miles and miles away from us, in the other side of the world, to people "different" from us… But we keep forgetting that we are all one race, we are all humans, we all call Earth our home, and so we are all connected. If you want proof of how we are all connected, just think about when an iceberg starts to melt and how it can create tsunamis that travel miles and miles away, reaching very often "the other side of the world." Or how when an oil spill happens, wildlife and sea life are affected thousands and thousands of miles away… We are all connected.

And so, as I watched the movie, I thought about how most of the time we allow ourselves to lose that wonderful connection, to enclose ourselves in our own little worlds where we forget, or choose not to feel those emotions, not appreciating all those gifts that make us humans. The movie made me promise myself that I will reach out for that humanity in me every day; I will try, even in the most difficult times, to stop the craziness of the routine and the busy life and allow my humanity to take over. I invite you to do the same, because it's a gift worth treasuring.

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Marta Cruz-Alicea writes the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

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