Monday, February 21, 2011

Predictability and Contentment #1

Lack of predictability is dangerous. On some level we all know this. It goes back across the centuries to, for example, when we lived in the shadows of great castles, daily expecting a drunken and half-insane baronial lord to emerge and do something to destroy our lives.
This, and a million stories like it, explain the urge to gated communities, to identical malls, to burgers that taste the same across the planet. They are predictable. secure and safe and they are indirectly part of the drive for happiness.

Actually the word happiness is wrong here, When we refer to the tepid glow we get from all our stuff and mechanisms we have to keep safe, to keep our families ever-smiling, surrounded by air bags both real and metaphorical, we mean contentment.

And the dirty secret of our contentment is that we know, again on some deep level, that it's the best we've ever had it. Our ancestors were grindingly miserable. Worse that that, they were survivors and survivors are rarely pleasant and well-adjusted people. As a result, every person alive believes in their genes in the twin ideals of predictability and contentment.

As far as our genes are concerned there is no purpose in our living beyond the age at which we can safely have children

If you're over thirty you are, genetically, a waste of meat. Hence the steady rise in genetically related diseases as we grow older. Genes aren't against us, They are indifferent.

Predictability short circuits this that tendency to early death by removing the traction that genes have in our lives. Those sinuous medical malls  (a dermatology clinic next to a general purpose MRI lab, the two separated by green plants and water features) are engines of predictability. The horrors the store fronts carefully fail to address are made to seem predictable by their being placed in such familiar and safe surroundings. If the horrors are predictable we are content.

I have a theory that there is only one mall in the world. They all look the same and carry the same goods after all. If we were to open one of those anonymous looking cleaning staff access doors and walk through we would find we would find we had walked through a door at the back of Lakeline Mall, Austine to the corresponding door in the Waverley Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Similarly I believe all oil rigs to be one rig, connected by disused access doors, surrounded by dusty cable runs and mislabeled pipes.

The possibility of the same being true of medical malls suggests that medical care leaks from location to location. For some reason this makes me uneasy.

The world is an endless twisting mall.

The outer edges of the vast, ever growing, parking lots are marked by restaurant chains.

The sky is an endless bleached blue with an agonizingly white sun.

No night anymore.

The mystery of the dark shadows, the awe inspiring stars are too unpredictable for this changeless world.

But we can't hold onto it. We take a strange turn and the ceiling of the mall becomes higher; the stores penetrate deeper; the plant and water features become more complicated and wilder.

The mall becomes wider. The stores, hugely way off to left and right, are dark, selling incomprehensible wares.

The floor is grass beneath your feet; the ceiling (vastly high above) is a blue so deep you could fall into it.

You exit the end cavern of the mall and see you are at the top of a huge cliff. At the base is a wild forest stretching as far as the eye can see.

You look behind you hoping to see the mall but instead you see an avenue of standing stones stretching off into the mist.

You have wandered away from the predictable and can never be content again. It's only small comfort to know that everyone else is following the same route.
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