Monday, August 31, 2009
The Beer Philosophers #1
(A series featuring two college guys stacking up their understanding of the universe in empty beer bottles. Have a beer. Loosen your tongue. It's good for the soul.)
"Have you got the hot nuts?"
"Dude, I was thinking."
"You've got to stop doing that. Unless it's about handing me the peanuts."
"I was thinking about pain."
"Really? I was thinking about pain too. Then, I burped."
"Dude, listen. Have you ever seen an animal in a trap?"
"An animal. Caught in a trap."
"Are we talking a live trap? A cage trap?"
"No. One of those nasty leg hold traps. You know. Snap! Foot nailed."
"Can you do that again? Your hand looks like a little Pacman."
"Exactly. A stainless steel Pacman."
"No. I've never seen one. Have you?"
"Well, not in person. Not for real. But on TV, maybe. I think. I don't know, who cares? My point is, what does the animal do? What do they do in the trap?"
"Well, I suppose they chew their leg off to free themselves. That's what they say, anyway. I have no idea if it's true."
"Exactly! They chew off their leg. Anything to escape."
"Yup. I guess."
"Do you suppose that hurts?"
"I would think it hurts like a motherfucker."
"Exactly! So, here we go. Imagine you had a scale. Put pain on one side and escape on the other. Which way does the scale tip?"
"The instinct to escape is stronger."
"Precisely. Now, what do you think a human would do?"
"Well, I certainly doubt many people could chew their leg off."
"But then again, there's that story about that trapped mountain climber who amputated a stuck limb with a rock."
"Okay. Okay. There are some tough fuckers who could do it. I'm sure. But I think most people would sit tight. If you sit still, it doesn't hurt nearly as much."
"My question is why?"
"Well. Let's see. Maybe they think they'll figure another way out. A painless way out."
"Or maybe they'll just wait and hope for the best. The trapper might not be such a bad guy. It could all be a mistake. They might talk their way into getting free."
"I could even see some people just pretending the whole thing isn't happening. Ostrich technique."
"So let's pull out the scale again. How does it shake out for humans?"
"Pain is stronger. A human avoids pain more than it needs to escape."
"Indeed. I think you're right. But does it make sense? What if some pain right now saves you a lot more pain later? Wouldn't you be better off to take the pain now? Chewing your leg off is better than ending up as the trim on somebody's fur coat. Yet, we don't do it."
"That's definitely true. We put off small things now and end up with much larger problems later."
"Which reminds me. I never rescheduled my dentist appointment."
"Better get on that."
"So, what I'm thinking is that humans tend to freeze in the presence of pain. Pain makes you hold still. It controls you. Especially if freezing is the only thing that takes the pain away."
"Okay. I think I see it. But what does it mean? Animals are better off?"
"I have no frigging idea what it means. But it's a terrible weakness. It can make us lambs. It can be used against us so easily."
"So what do we do about it?"
"Beats me. Thinking about it any more is too painful."
"I'm going to get another beer. Maybe you'll figure it out by the time I get back."
"Hey. Grab me one while you're up."
"Sometimes you're a pain in my ass."
"But it's better than escape."
"Huh. I'll get back to you on that."