I may be going “a post too far” with this, but what are you gonna do? It feels like it’s not quite finished.
I remember this word, I think from high school biology. Homeostasis. I just looked it up. "Homeostasis" is defined as “a state of psychological equilibrium when a tension or drive has been reduced or eliminated.”
That’s what I was talking about yesterday, only I called it “Regularity.” You feel “regular” when you’re back to “normal.” It’s not a describable feeling, I don’t think. I compared it to the smell of the milk in the refrigerator. It’s a “nothing” feeling. It’s just that when you’re in any other state, the sensation feels, uncomfortably, “off.”
Homeostatis is a naturally desirable condition. You haven’t got it, your body impels you to get it back. Going further, however, there are people, currently experiencing homeostasis, who are terrified of its departure. Especially a departure to its opposite extreme.
The opposite of “regularity” is chaos – no reliable routine, everything anarchicallyout of control. Most people don’t care for chaos. The minority exception are the people for whom chaos is their “regular” state of affairs; these people, I imagine, are crazy, but if they’re not – if they’re truly only comfortable with chaos – I will not be relying on them to drive me to the airport.
Though the objection to chaos is generally popular, some people seem to be engaged in an obsessive form of “chaos on the brain.” I have heard Supreme Court Associate Justice Scalia, justifying the need for an originalist” interpretation of the Constitution – meaning a strict adherence to the Founders’ original intent – explaining that, if you allow people to interpret the Constitution any way they choose, “the result would be chaos.”
Ignoring the fact that the Constitution is broadly constructed specifically, some scholars believe, so as to allow for flexibility due to changing times the Founders couldn’t possibly foresee, and the fact that the Founders themselves disagreed on stuff – and the fact that a musket is not a machine gun – Scalia and his co-“originalists” insist that a solid and predictable “something” is unquestionably superior to a vague and relativistic “nothing”, even if that “something” consists of provisions set down in a document conceived in, and for, the Eighteenth Century.
Nothing is worse than chaos. You must avoid chaos at all cost. You have chaos, and the whole thing falls apart. (And everybody’s naked. They don’t say that, but it feels like their underlying concern.)
Not being a person of extremes, I reject that our only two choices are an adherence to provisions, some of which make minimal sense for our times, and a cataclysmic descent into Sodom and Gomorrah. I could be wrong. But I hope not, because both of those give me the creeps.
On to more reasonableness. At least, comparatively. Consider, first, the people desperately longing for “The Good Old Days.” This faction finds something seriously missing in life as it is currently being lived in this country: Civility. Decency. Respect. Slavery – that just slipped in. I apologize.
People who long for “the way things used to be” may not be talking about actual life. They may be recalling some movie they once saw, set invariably in the 1890’s. In any case – I’m just guessing here – but I don’t see much of a chance of those times ever coming back. If they ever existed at all.
Maybe they did, for some people. Maybe those were their best times ever. The problem is, the times that made those times possible are gone.
Times seem to be changing faster and faster. New gadgets come on the market before you’ve finished the “Instruction Manual” for the gadgets from a year earlier. For which you can no longer get parts. Political strategists target the desire to, if not to turn back the clock, to at least slow it down a little. Those strategies work, because the impulse behind that desire is biological.
“Regularity” has disappeared. And people feel uncomfortably “out of sorts.”
Other people scoff at the people pining for the soothing and reliable past. In their view, the past was good for a few; the present is better for a greater number; and the future, hopefully, will be good for everyone. They have little patience, and arguably little respect, for those who refuse to embrace change and surrender to its inevitability. Their advice to those fuddy-duddies: Loosen up, and go with the flow.
But this crowd too is not entirely happy. What’s meditation, what’s yoga, what’s marijuana – a drug whose specific and highly sought-after effect is to slow everything down – if not strategies for managing the consequences our uncomfortably “irregular” times?
They can’t knock changing times – some of which even they don’t agree with – because doing that is not cool. But their bodies – through backaches, migraines, eating problems, irritated bowels, sleep disorders, skin eruptions, various dependencies, depression, anxiety, and countless other signals – are telling them,
We live in a culture whose conditions are an impediment to homeostatic “regularity.” And everybody’s feeling it. Everybody.
The question is,
What are we supposed to do about it?
I’ve written elsewhere about the frustrating limitation of “working with the tools we’ve got.”
I bet a really smart person would be able to figure this out.