Mira, my cat, would like to be on the table right now. She is not allowed to be on the table.
She presumably wants to be there because she wants to be in my eyeline, and my laptop is on the table. It’s not quite time for to have her food, you see, but she would like to have her food. I am clearly not providing it because I’m oblivious, so she is going to spend time specifically breaking rules. Breaking rules is how you get attention.
Thus my morning is spent getting Mira off the table and occasionally writing a few words. The worst thing is, in twenty minutes, it will be time to feed her…and this tactic will seem to have worked.
I think we are all a lot more like my cat than we would like to admit. We learn the wrong lessons, if any lesson at all, from our actions, then repeat them because they “worked”.
Mira doesn’t understand the words “seven o’clock” any more than I understand quantum mechanics (which is to say, not all). She just knows she wants food, so she needs my attention, and that if she has my attention long enough, she will eventually get food. That’s the lesson she learns.
I wonder what “lessons” I’ve learned over the years that are completely incorrect. I wonder how people who don’t wonder this, constantly, even function. I question myself reflexively. It doesn’t always work out well for me—I’ve spiraled into depression multiple times. But I still believe the unexamined life is not worth living. I still wonder which incorrect lessons I’m learning, because I don’t think there’s any other way to improve.
Sometimes I wonder if I’d be happier if I were more like Mira—doing the same thing every day and not wondering whether it’s effective. It works, after all! But I know I can’t actually stop.
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