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August 9, 2006

Al Christensen on 'The End of Willpower'


Al just contributed a comment on yesterday's final post.

It's far better than the dreck I routinely fill this space with so I'm putting it here, front and center under the big top, instead of just leaving it on the outside looking in.

    Al Christensen on 'The End of Willpower'

    I don't know about willpower but I know about making choices. Do I eat that pie for the short-term gratification or do I skip it for the sake of a long-term goal? Do I buy crap at the market and then fight the urge to eat it, or do I not buy the crap so it's not in the house calling to me to have just a teeny bit?

    On the other hand, I know our minds and bodies hate deprivation. It's so boring, so bleak. Why live longer if it just means going longer without the things you enjoy?

    Well, one answer smacked me up side the head a couple of months ago. All sorts of very annoying but non-lethal things started happening to my body. See, I had imagined I would just drop dead someday from a heart atack or stroke — nice, short, clean ending. Adios, it's been fun. I hadn't thought much about being plagued with all sorts of nasty health problems that would kill me very slowly. Oh, that. So I went to the doctor for the first time in 15 years. He confirmed what I suspected: diabetes.

    So now I'm back to the choices. Every minute of every day I have to decide whether to do the smart thing or the self-destructive thing.

    That leads me to a tangential theory. Perhaps when we sense the environment has become too crowded or stressed, some genetic switch flips in some of us that overrides our self-preservation instinct. It's like the code is telling us, "Look, it's time to cull the herd and your particular contribution to the preservation of the species is no longer needed. How about checking out early?"

    And so we drift into self-destructive behaviors — behaviors our minds and bodies resist changing. Maybe I eat the bacon cheeseburger with a side of chili fries and a huge chocolate shake not because I lack "willpower" but because my genetic code is trying to kill me off.


A few more commenters like Al and I'll be able to take early retirement.

August 9, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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