In an episode of ANC’s Mad Men Don Draper once described happiness as ‘a moment before you want more happiness’. The Founding Fathers also felt pursuing happiness as sufficiently important to include in the Declaration of Independence. And recently I watched a great Robert Sapolsky video on human behaviour that confirmed dopamine in chimps was released in the anticipation of a reward not during the reward itself; in other words, it’s the pursuit of happiness that gives us pleasure, not the happiness itself.
So what do the combined wisdoms of Matthew Wiener, Robert Sapolsky and George Washington et al tell us? That pursuing and experiencing happiness is an ongoing process essential to the human condition. That human beings thrive on novelty and diversity. And when it comes to relationships many will admit that their most cherished memories are those of a continuous rediscovery of intimacy; of conquest and seduction. Yet those wedded to the idea of monogamy, whether because of tradition or social pressure, not only miss out on the novelty that makes life worthwhile but find that boredom and monotony inevitably sets in.
It’s the unavoidable intoxication of new. Yet feminised society wants men to feel guilty for just exploring, let alone acting upon, those impulses. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seen or heard men ashamed of their natural masculine inclinations. How can exploring an urge bestowed upon us by nature through millennia of evolution be judged immoral?
Repeatedly viewing the same world/environment around you can temporarily make it lose its own meaning and value to the viewer. As Richard Dawkins put it, “it is worthwhile from time to time shaking off the anaesthetic of familiarity”. Seduction, new girls and new experiences can be healthy for the soul. Those who settle into comfortable, monogamous relationships often end up in a dissatisfied, low dopamine, vanilla position of goal-achieved stasis. Here’s an extract from a New Yorker article about how our brains perceive time (based on Dr Eagleman’s research) dependent on the type of stimulus being experienced…
“When our brains receive new information, it doesn’t necessarily come in the proper order. This information needs to be reorganized and presented to us in a form we understand. When familiar information is processed, this doesn’t take much time at all. New information, however, is a bit slower and makes time feel elongated.”
“The more familiar the world becomes [ed: the bubble world you and your wife/lover create in your domesticated prison], the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”
“The best example of this is the so-called oddball effect—an optical illusion that Eagleman had shown me in his lab. It consisted of a series of simple images flashing on a computer screen. Most of the time, the same picture was repeated again and again: a plain brown shoe. But every so often a flower would appear instead. To my mind, the change was a matter of timing as well as of content: the flower would stay onscreen much longer than the shoe. But Eagleman insisted that all the pictures appeared for the same length of time. The only difference was the degree of attention that I paid to them. The shoe, by its third or fourth appearance, barely made an impression. The flower, more rare, lingered and blossomed, like those childhood summers.”
Take the risk of enjoying a life of constantly renewed youthful imagination. Pursue your dreams, don’t resent your masculinity and allow your heart to be captured again and again; that way your journey will never be lined with the garland of regret or a stale, time-distorted boredom.