Living from Habit to Habit

Everyone who has a cat knows where I am talking about: cats have that inexplicable urge to always knead a pillow before ‘deciding’ to sit down on it. Whenever I see my cat doing that, I always ask myself: What – if anything – is going on inside of his head right now? Doesn’t he realize that he can just sit down? Is he just stupid? Maybe he is. But maybe things are a little more subtle than that…

Because maybe it is just a habit: an innocent little habit, like all of us have. Like when we stand up in the morning and take a shower, eat breakfast, brush our teeth and start our day. Let’s call this ‘habit morning’. Or like another habit we have – ‘habit evening’ – that consists of getting home, eating dinner, watching television and going to bed. And what is it we do when ‘habit evening’ has ended? Exactly! We return to ‘pattern morning’ and the cycle starts all over again.

You could say that, on a higher level, our entire lives are nothing more than a string of habits. Because what did your year of 2010 look like? It probably looked something like: celebrating birthdays, mourning at funerals, enjoying Christmas and celebrating new year. And what about 2011? Pretty much the same, right?

We are smart creatures: we have big heads full of big brains. We have a neo-cortex that is bigger than that of any other animal wandering around on this earth of ours. And even though we might have animalistic urges, such as the urge to mate and the urge to avoid pain, we seem to be able to detach ourselves pretty well from these instincts. We can, if we want to, use our magnificent thinking powers to defeat the animal inside of us. But how often do we actually use these special thinking powers of ours? Are we truly acting like conscious and reflecting beings that are different from the ‘stupid rest’ of the animal kingdom? Or are we for the bigger part just living our lives on cruise-control, hardly thinking about what it is that we are doing?

We are efficient biological machines designed to use as little energy as possible. Just as we won’t travel a hundred kilometers in order to get a coke if we can just buy one in the store next door, neither will we reflect upon what we are doing if the situation doesn’t require us to do so. Only when something goes out of hand, we might feel inclined to change the manner in which we live our lives. We love being intelligent but only insofar as it helps us to live a less intelligent life.

So, given all of this: do we actually differ from cats? They have habits, we have habits. They don’t think, we don’t think. Surely: we might be able to reflect upon our lives in a manner that cats can’t (or at least don’t), but as long as we don’t use this ability of ours we aren’t that much different from cats. The only difference might be that we aren’t kneading our pillows before sitting down on them.

What do you think?

Written by Rob Graumans

4 thoughts on “Living from Habit to Habit

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  3. Hi Rob – facinating article; I love reading posts that require a little introspection! Thanks for joining Windows on Wildlife this week – hope to see you again!

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