MENTAL NOTE

Though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run.
Blue, resist the urge to use facebook. You can do it. Good luck.
Cats and dogs can be friends. So can cowboys and indians. So can we.
Why try to be the best when there's no hierarchy in heaven?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Puzzle of Repetitive Behavior

Tell me what you did and I will tell you who you are. I was reading a Terrence Rafferty review in The New York Times the other day when I came across these words: 'the enduring human puzzle of repetitive behavior.' That struck a chord and got me thinking. I am undoubtedly guilty of repetitive behavior that is, overall, much more destructive than it is constructive, and perhaps you can relate, but is it really a puzzle? I'm slightly begging to differ.

Whatever we do consciously we do because we want to or because we feel we have to, and all too often the latter reason is quickly outsmarted by the former. That's because we all have urges that are hard to control. Believe it or not, we are at our core animals that (if you ask me) bear very little resemblance to the deities in whose image some claim we have been created, or so I would hope or all hope is lost (though maybe not today). We are very basic that way. We observe, we covet, and when opportunities arise to indulge our mental appetites, we attack and savor the moment like a baby sucking on a pacifier. We are hardwired to yearn for more — more money, more stuff, more love, more recognition, more Facebook followers — so when it comes to making the same mistakes all over again, we shouldn't act surprised. Strong urges are much stronger than the judgmental part of our brain is willing to acknowledge — until it's too late and all we can do is look back and sob. There's no secret.

We are hardwired to make the same mistakes. Of course, we can be extremely creative when we need to reason away the consequences of our actions while we're in the process of doing what we know we shouldn't be doing, like there's an angel on one shoulder, a little devil on the other, and lo and behold: religious doctrine is born. All we need to do is flesh it out a bit and let it age a couple of millennia like a very special bottle of wine. Religious beliefs thrive on our split personalities, on the dual nature of human perception, on our awareness of right and wrong (which may differ a great deal from one nation or tribe to the next), on reward versus punishment, darkness versus light, on Disney incarnate, and if it isn't your parents who your voice of reason is saying will get to punish you, it is likely to be your other Father, or maybe just you, or so your inner-angel keeps warning you, but you're obviously too busy to even want to know about it. Ten hail Marys and the occasional whip will do the trick, so why not carry on? Forget about the IRS. So what if your children need to eat?

Big mistakes, small mistakes — when they're the result of urges, they are all the same. It's only societal rules that dub the majority of mistakes as innocent or actions to be frowned upon, while other ones are to be seen as unhealthy, unacceptable or downright criminal, making our mistakes seem to be as varied as the colors of the rainbow. But their basic architecture is the same. Wanting something is a powerful force. Time and again.

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