Salt and pepper

There is a constant pull in our hearts between the old and familiar and the new and daring. It’s not that one is better, for to live life is to continually wage a battle between comfort and adventure. In fact, one could argue that either of these opposing principles is meaningless without the other – each forms the yin to the other’s yang. What’s interesting is the way these two forces continually play themselves out in our lives, from the smallest details up to the most significant of life changes.

When you see a horror movie, or an action adventure flick, you are consuming a kind of comfort food. There you are, safe in your movie seat or living room, watching at a safe distance while scary zombie monsters devour the flesh of people on the other side of the screen. Ironically, the scarier the scenario, the greater is the comfort derived from engaging in this transaction. When we enjoy such entertainments, we are reenacting the principle of the campfire, the primal warm place of refuge, where the tribe can gather in comfort, safe from the fearsome lion that roars in the forest beyond the trees.

On a different level, any daring adventure is an assertion of an inherent right to exist. To wander out into the unsafe world, to climb that mountain, sail across that sea, jump from that airplane, is to wage war against the arbitrariness of fate, to wrest control of the underlying existential debate. It is a way of saying “I continue to exist because it is right that I should exist!”

I am not saying that any of these emotions make a lick of sense on a rational level. We’re not talking rationality here. After all, what can you say that rationally justifies your continued existence? From the perspective of the Universe, why is your existence somehow preferable to your non-existence? But on the level of psychological survival, we each feel a deep need – from the time we are small children, barely old enough to walk – to test our safety, to affirm and demonstrate some principle of invulnerability.

This continual need to seek comfort and reassurance from danger and uncertainty is an inherent part of us, a desire deeply embedded in the human psyche. It is the very spice, the salt and pepper, which lends flavor to our time here on this Earth.

7 thoughts on “Salt and pepper”

  1. Wow, that was cool. I’ve never seen that before.

    Yep, it was an unclosed italic. Great effect, but I decided to fix it anyway, since it changed the other posts.

  2. At times it is funny to see how the kind of adventures you need to go for changes.
    Not long ago I found myself telling someone, it is nice what you are doing, but me, I already climbed that mountain, I already jumped out of that plane (both was meant quite literally), it was nice, but that was all. Now I am looking for other adventures.
    It was like saying: “I have been there, I have done this, I don’t need this kind of adventure any more.”
    So to me the question is what kind of adventure do we need, at what time and why. Is the “normal” life and the talks and discussions we have with people adventure enough, so that we don’t need this ‘classic’ adventures any more?
    I read in a paper that people watch competitive sports and adventure films, because they don’t have this feelings and experiences in their own lives and they do things like Bungee jumping, because they miss this kick in their lives.
    So it seems that watching adventure films or sports or Bungee jumping can be some kind of substitute. Perhaps a substitute for not having enough salt or pepper in your life? 🙂
    I don’t know….

  3. I actually attended an NHL game last night. It’s only the third one I’ve ever seen live, and it is quite a different experience from watching on television. Looking around at the 18 thousand or so people in the arena, I wondered what it was that brought them all there – on an individual basis, I mean.

    The game and the huge attendance brought to mind post-republic Rome; the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus and gladiatorial combat. However, I don’t think that everyone in the arena was really there for the same (bloodthirsty?) vicarious reasons that Dagmar refers to.

    The two young women sitting in the seats next to my cousin and I were immaculately dressed, a little drunk and spent more time texting than watching the game. Perhaps I’m being unkind, but my first reaction was to assume that their purpose for attending the game was one very different from most of the jersey wearing fans nearby. But I’m also betting that such was common in Rome’s day as well. 😉

  4. Psychologists have “emotional jag theory”, which posits that people choose to engage in adrenalin inspiring activities such as horror movies, roller coasters, skydiving, even rocky relationships, which may in fact be less than pleasant in the moment, as a route to the contrasting deep calm which follows the activity.

    Essentially, they say, we take the pepper to get the salt reward.

  5. @ Ben
    “emotional jag theory” is an interesting idea, since if you look at it from the other direction it could mean that if you are having enough “emotional jags” in your “normal” or “professional” life you might not seek for more of it in your spare time, or do I get that wrong?

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