Two counter-intuitive interpretations of gut feelings guide my ethical actions:
- The heat of hubris.
I always try to catch and interrogate this feeling wherever it happens, especially when it is accompanied by iron-clad justification and and sublimates into majestic righteousness. If it feels like hubris, I assume it is hubris, and if that hubris can be justified, the justification is probably the logic of hubris.
- The outrage of anxiety.
This very distinct feeling, taken at face value, indicates one is being assailed by some form of moral and/or intellectual wrongness. I’ve come to interpret it as approaching impingement of beyondness — a hint of dread of the infinite. The subject of my anxiety cannot be subsumed within my current understanding. I can keep my understanding intact and repel the assailant, or I can welcome the assailant with the faith that if I sacrifice my private understanding in the right spirit I have the opportunity to re-understand: to undergo metanoia.
Some other less counter-intuitive gut feelings:
- The darkening of betrayal.
When a person close to me undergoes a deep perspective shift that inclines them away from me, it is often signaled by a dark and heavy feeling. It is peculiarly non-directional like a bass frequency, and it is not clear from the feeling who has shifted — only that someone has shifted.
- The hangover of sin.
When I do something wrong, even if I can justify it entirely, I feel a distinctive sickness afterwards. I’ve come to trust this feeling over my own arguments. When I feel this sensation, I assume a working attitude that I am in the wrong, and switch from self-justification to self-interrogation.
- The fluency of grace.
I can feel it when I am in the right place to speak and act. The sensation is indescribable but unmistakeable: an attunement to the situation, clarity on what matters and assurance that success will follow.
- The release of reconciliation.
There is a distinctive untightening sense that comes with the realization that a person you are in conflict with is more important than anything else involved in the conflict. It is palpable when it happens to oneself, and, strangely just as much as when it happens to the other.
- The wrinkliness of incomplete thought.
When I have an understanding that is not yet worked out fully, and it seems that some unconsidered factor is preventing it from resolving, this comes with a feeling that the problem is not “lying flat”, which might sound like a metaphor, but is actually a description of a feeling about the thought.