Sunday, October 16, 2005
The Hamster Analogy
I find blogging somehow therapeutic--it's like my own little free psychologist. This little window just sits here and I talk to it.

But for as long as I've been blogging, there have been pretty tight off-limit boundaries for what I'm willing to talk about here. My personal life is kept pretty personal, and so I can't vent my frustrations into blogger.

I generally kept a very small set of people that I used to vent on these topics (gotta maintain that emotionless tough-guy image). Having lost a number of them after moving out here, my roommate has become somewhat of a sounding board for stuff that I just wouldn't blog.

This weekend has had plenty of stuff I won't blog. It's just been crazy. He's having fun hearing the stories.

But I did just tell him about the hamster analogy, which I'm more than happy to share with all of you.

In terms of evolution, a lot of our feelings and desires have a biological purpose. We get hungry so we're motivated to find food (hunt it down maybe) and eat it. We get scared so we avoid danger. We find the other sex attractive so we end up reproducing. For a long time, our emotions lined up pretty well with our self interests (homo economicus acting more on instinct than reason. See evolutionary economics).

But we don't evolve all that fast. We're not tailored for modern living. Our desires are less well aligned with our interests. Think of obesity--our love of fatty and sugary foods reflects the prior scarcity of such things. But in an environment where such things are abundant, we overindulge to the point of self harm. People's impulsiveness and drive for instant gratification over long-term self interest gets us into all sorts of trouble (think credit card debt or extramarital affairs).

My point to my roommate was that we, having figured out how to divorce sex from its biological purpose (thank you, contraceptives), have also succeeded in making the whole thing an absurd pursuit without any social function other than indulging ourselves.

I had, at one point, described this idea to John (he was pushing some variant of utilitarianism while I--with my reserved Lutheran upbringing--was trying to stress the emptiness and meaninglessness of raw hedonism). He laughed and said, "Yeah, it's kind of like the hamster hitting the button for a treat over and over."

I loved that line.

Anyway, sometimes I feel that way about all things romantic--it's just us reacting to impulses that, now that we don't have to worry about reproduction much anymore, don't really have much of a purpose.

Maybe I'm hitting my quarter-life existential crisis.
Humans have probably been having sex for purposes other than reproduction since, well, before we were humans. Think about it.
I realize it's not all about procreation. Maybe I'm bitching about being human and not wholly rational.
"Yeah, it's kind of like the hamster hitting the button for a treat over and over."

In all seriousness, experiencing pleasure from our senses is what being a human is. Eat food you enjoy, not just to give you calories and nutrients. Listen to music, not just the sounds around you. Be sexual because it feels good, not just to reproduce.
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