0170 - The best thing that ever happened. - 2021.01.04



In an ideal world, the world we can all easily imagine, things that are good for us are desirable and pleasurable, and things that are bad for us are not. In a less ideal, but still imaginable world, things that would assist a Neolithic protohuman in making viable offspring are desirable and pleasurable, and things that don't are not.

Of course, in the real world, we often find the very opposite is true. Junk food tastes better than healthy food. Exercise isn't fun and makes us sore. Bitchy self-destructive tantrums feel righteous. We're too tired to sleep, too depressed to do things that lift our mood, and don't get me started on weather-induced migraines - what evolutionary good do those do?

What would your life be like, if you could see some underlying reason and purpose behind all your sensations, emotions, and impulses? Would you be more likely to order that pizza, if you knew that you wanted to do so because your body craves folic acid, or because you're feeling self-destructive, or because you associate waiting for pizza delivery with a positive memory from your childhood? Would you continue a behaviour if you knew the only evolutionary reason for it was that it helped some medieval ancestor kill a competitor, or steal their neighbour's cow, or manipulate a parishioner into thinking sexual assault and subsequent impregnation was God's will?

Of course, rejecting one's instincts is its own trap. We often fight our own impulses, because otherwise we'd all be lying around eating candy and having bareback sex all day. That fight is good, but, like all things, can go too far in the other direction.

Many people, fighting their short-sighted urges, start lauding unpleasant things as inherently meritorious. After all, if healthy food tastes bad, that must mean that it's good to eat bad-tasting things, right? If exercise hurts, then hurting yourself is exercise! If toughing it out through hard circumstances makes you a stronger person, then it's good to thrust yourself into hard circumstances!

This kind of madness, in the best scenario, only leads to self-flagellation. In the worst case scenario, it's applied to other people, especially vulnerable people the flagellator has authority over. Discipline makes you stronger, therefore beat the hell out of your kids. Pulling yourself up from poverty is a success story, therefore no handouts. Triumphing over adversity is heroism, therefore generating needless adversity facilitates more heroism.

That's why I embrace escapism, and why I embrace certain forms of surrealism and even antirealism. I think it's important to show people doing things for no reason, because quite frankly, that is often the case. I think it's important to show progress without pain and punishment without sin, because, quite frankly, the universe is under no obligation to play fair with us. I think it's important to show a decorated and accomplished veteran who has a relatively lousy life after sacrificing for a cause they no longer believe in. I think it's important to show a shut-in who has everything provided for them and is still miserable and incapable of dealing with a world that is set up for their benefit.

No notes on Zoa, though. Zoa's fine.


0170 - 2167/07/06/16:18 - sidewalk.
LC: You know, I go years without ever leaving my apartment, and... and now I'm out here for the second time in twenty-four hours and... and I'm already fucking it all up so badly.
CP: I d-don't think you're... you're messing up.
Zoa: I mean, if anything, you're leaving your home because of incorrect interpretations of your instructions that I've been making, so I'm the one that's been messing up.
CP: So we're all sorry and we all feel bad, then.
Zoa: Hey, speak for yourself. When I say "I'm sorry", I'm just indicating an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an intent to change behaviour patterns. Meeting Lee Caldavera is still far and away the best thing that's ever happened to me, unintended consequences notwithstanding.
LC: You really mean that?
Zoa: Of course I do! You're very profitable!
LC: Oh. Right.
Zoa: Also, your obvious emotional connection to me indicates that you're likely to continue to act to preserve and protect me for the foreseeable future, so you're ticking alllll the boxes that say you're good for my long-term survival.
Zoa: Which, I remind you, is the same thing as pleasure for me.
CP: That's... cynical.
Zoa: You get pleasure from eating food because food keeps you alive. My whole deal's not super different just because I can trace why a variable has the value it does.
CP: Actually, I have persistently low appetite, my sense of taste is hypersensitive so most food tastes weird, and... and I have to force myself to swallow p-p-protein slurries and multivitamins or my body starts breaking down.
Zoa: Ah, well, pooping, then. Whichever.
CP: The slurries make that... not great either.