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3:22 p.m. - 2005-02-23
Gump and Monkeys
I was going to be the New, Improved, Complete Slacker Loopy and not update today...but then I read my buddy gumphood, and commented, and then he commented back, which provided me the opportunity to jump on my soapbox and set forth yet another of my twisted theories on life....

Okay. Just so you'll have all the resources at your disposal, because I'm nice like that:

His original entry can be found here.

My comment was (because clicking links makes you totally lose your train of thought, so I try to keep that shit to a minimum...because it doesn't take much these days to derail the old thought-train, at least for me):

Wow, Gump, you're even more of a knee-jerk cynical pessimist than I am. As far as dating goes, I think the real problem is that men and women want different things at different points in their life, and if you take a man and woman of the same age, they will want totally different things. But I think the real problem is that society conditions people to think that being single (aka being alone) is not a lot of people play the "better than nothing" dating game. (Hmm. This could be a new reality show...) Of course, this leads to being unhappy. The same theory applies to take a job you hate because it's better than nothing, and wonder why you're not happy and not successful.

His comment back was:

... anyway, I do agree that men and woman want diffrent things, and single is okay, but not if you don't want a family. And I think humans are designed to feel empty without that. I honestly beleive that. As for the job, typically I agree, but I don't know many people who work because they like it. They need to work to live...and if you aren't have no choice? Do you disagree? Its survival. Wolves don't eat carasees cause it passes the time...they NEED to eat to live, and jobs are a sruvival point. Dating is diffrent.

Here's the thing. I think that some people really do need a family to be happy. Others need a successful career, or some really cool stuff, or a great group of friends. And then we have the whiny-ass people who, no matter what they have, they're not satisfied. If they have the kick-ass job and great spouse and fab kids and cool stuff, they will be pissed off because their job isn't cool enough, their spouse isn't attractive enough, their kids got B's instead of A's, and their stuff isn't as nice as their neighbors.

This doesn't mean I think people should settle for something less than they want. However, you need to know what it is you're really looking for, or you won't find it. The folks who are never satisfied are the ones who are not happy with themselves. What they are really looking for is someone to tell them, over and over, that they're good enough, they're smart enough, and doggone it, people like them. The irony of this, of course, is they won't believe a single freaking word of any praise they get. Either that, or they will act entitled to respect and praise, even though they are complete fucknuts. I have worked for a number of these people. I've also dated a few of them.

Gump said that we humans are designed to feel empty without a family. Maybe. But then, maybe we're in an evolutionary phase. Think about it. Prior to the last hundred (or less) years, people spent a lot of their life just trying to stay alive. Children frequently died in infancy. Diseases which can be cured easily now were often fatal. Air conditioning and heating systems didn't exist. Quick transportation was a fantasy. So people had to focus on more basic things. And in order for the species to survive, they had to procreate a LOT, for the reasons stated above. Therefore, it would make sense for the human brain to be focused on creating a family and nurturing it and doing everything possible to ensure that your family continued on for generations.

Now, however, we almost have the opposite problem. There are too many people. Infant mortality, at least in the more industrialized nations, is much lower. The human lifespan keeps getting longer. Diseases are slain by modern medicine. So instead of focusing on simple survival, we have time to pursue all sorts of intellectual endeavors...and have redefined what "success" is. Success used to be having a big family and providing for them. Now, it's more along the lines of having a small family, making lots of money, and having the beautiful home and cars and decorations and clothes. Instead of being happy that your children survive to reproduce, you're not happy unless they achieve outstanding feats. And you really hope they don't start reproducing anytime soon.

Therefore, I think the human brain is slowly being re-wired. We know that our species is going to survive, and in fact, we know that things are a little crowded here and there. So the part of the brain that equated fulfillment and happiness with having a marriage and family is slowly being replaced by different varieties of happy...being happy with achievements in career, or happy with traveling the world and learning new things, or happy being the friend everyone loves. However, like the monkey experiment (which may or may not have ever really happened, but it's a useful illustration, so please just go with the metaphor and don't be all Snopes-ing my ass here, mmmkay?), we're conditioned to believe that we have to have a family to be happy.

Basically, the monkey experiment is something like this. Scientists take five monkeys and stick them in a room with a stairway. At the top of the stairs, suspended on a pole, are some bananas. However, if the monkey steps on the stairs, he gets a nasty shock. Nasty. Anyway, before too long, if a monkey tries to climb those stairs, the other monkeys jump his ass to prevent him from getting hurt. The scientists start replacing the original monkeys with new monkeys. When the new monkeys try to get the bananas, the old monkeys attack. Eventually, the original monkeys are all gone...but whenever the newest monkey goes for the bananas, the other monkeys, well...go bananas.

The point of this story is that we are conditioned to believe certain things and hold them as absolutely true. In our case, the belief is that you have to be married and/or part of a couple with a family, or you don't matter what other rewards you have reaped in your life or could reap if you didn't have a spouse and family. However, now, all the original monkeys are dead, and we still think that you're going to be hurt if you go for the bananas....that is, if you seek out something which is appealing to you personally, not the thing everyone thinks is safe.

Now, onto the job portion of Gump's equation. I was trying to think of a quippy little transition, but I couldn't, so get over it.

Anyway, I think that the part of our brains that was once fixated on actual physical survival has transferred to the workplace. It's kill or be killed, bring home the biggest brontosaur so you'll impress the chief time. And in a lot of ways, there are some serious parallels in the modern world between dating and work.

For example:

Dating: you look for the most attractive person that might possibly be interested.
Work: you look for the most successful person who might possibly be interested.

Dating: you do everything in your power to put on your best face when you're around the target of your affection.
Work: you do everything in your power to get the successful person to take positive notice of you.

Dating: once you have landed your love-muffin, you make sure everyone else knows they're taken.
Work: once the successful person thinks you're a kick-ass employee, you make sure everyone else knows that.

Dating: sooner or later, your love-muffin starts to bore the shit out of you, and you realize that they are no longer quite so cute.
Work: sooner or later, you realize that your mentor is a complete retard, and you could so do their job better.

Dating: you dump the loser, and trade up to someone you perceive as better.
Work: you sabotage the mentor, and do everything possible to have their job next.

What I'm saying, I guess, is that in the past, dating and relationships were the means of survival. It took all hands to cultivate and hunt and gather. Now, we have to work to get money to buy all of that shit. This means that we've had to change our focus from creating a family to creating monetary wealth.

I think the dissatisfaction in dating and work and everything in life that people are having now is the result of trying to reconcile old biological impulses with a new reality. Before, dating was like the had to have a village to survive. Now, you want to burn the village and conquer it with perhaps a handful of others, so that each of you will have more. No wonder everyone is so fucked up.



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