Friday, April 5, 2013

An Alternating Mood Current

As I explained shortly after starting this blog a few years ago, I took its name from a line in Homer and Langley, the latest novel by E.L. Doctorow. I sometimes think about other things in that book, themes and ideas, short passages, and some longer excerpts. Here is a dialog between the novel's two title characters, eccentric but very intelligent brothers. They are discussing popular music: 

There is art to the lyrics too, Langley said. The lyrics are almost more interesting than the music. They boil down human emotions to their essence. And they touch on profound things.

Like what?

Well take that song where he says sometimes he's happy sometimes he's blue.

" disposition depends on you."

Yes, well what if she's saying the same thing at the same time?


The girl, I mean if her disposition depends on him at the same time his disposition depends on her? In that case one of two circumstances would prevail: either they would lock together in an unchanging state of sadness or happiness, in which case life would be unendurable--

That's not good. And what's the other circumstance?

The other circumstance is that if they began disynchronously, and each was dependent on the other's disposition, there would be this constantly alternating mood current running between them, from misery to happiness and back again, so that they would each be driven mad by the emotional instability of the other.

I see.

For your entertainment, here is the song to which he refers:

I find this idea of Langley's interesting and have often pondered the concept of intertwined emotions in a close human relationship. It's like the couple that can't decide how to proceed because one says, "I want to do whatever you want to do," and the other says, "Well I want to do whatever you want to do!" and so they get nowhere; they're stuck.

Mrs. Christensen and I experience emotional ebb and flow. Maybe we're both overly sensitive (I'm pretty sure I am). It seems we can trigger some pretty dramatic mood swings in one another with just a few ill-chosen words. Is this unhealthy? I don't think so. Difficult to deal with, yes. But I think it is evidence of how much we love and care for each other. That, and proof that we're both very human.

I sometimes wish I could settle into a stable, independent emotional state, unalterable by others' words and actions. But I think that would cause me to become cold, uncaring. It is right for us to influence and be influenced by others, especially those we're closest to. And it doesn't necessarily drive us mad, provided we work at being happy and helping others to do the same. I'm unintimidated by many things, but the mood of my woman is not one of them. My disposition depends on her.

Leave a comment if you liked this post. If you did not like it, definitely leave a comment. If you are indifferent toward it, but you have a good chowder recipe to share, go ahead and... okay, you know where I'm going with this. I heart comments.


  1. The last paragraph just about sums it up.
    But it's the "nothing happens in a bubble". My girl or I can be excited, or amused or upset by something we saw, then share it with the other and temper (or encourage) the emotional effects of it.
    But just having her around is enough of an anchor to keep me more stable than I ever thought I would be.

    (And that's a great tune!)

    1. You're right, El G. Nothing happens in a bubble, and no man is an island. I may develop this idea further in a follow-up post inspired by your comment. Thanks!