Wednesday, 02 March 2011
Analogies are one of my favorite cognitive processes, quite possibly my favorite. We have a symbiotic relationship: I use them often and spread their gospel of truth, reason, and humor, and they helped me do well on the SAT's. Sometimes a beautiful analogy will come to me at random, in a moment of clarity, like a sign from the gods themselves. The other day was just such an occurrence.
I was on a train with a few friends of mine, heading to a birthday celebration for one of our high school buddies at a bar in Manhattan. One of my friends was giving us the ins and outs of his recent breakup with a longtime girlfriend. The group, unwilling to pause and reflect on the emotional strain of a suspended relationship and the value of true love, quickly turned the conversation to pussy-getting.
A random three-way story here, a failed attempt at anal there; in true man-code fashion, his friends were turning his attention from the negative and instead focusing on the potential for positives. It was beautiful to watch. Who cares if you'll cry yourself to sleep whenever you see a commercial for her favorite Oxygen show? You can still go out three nights a week and try to get chlamydia. Ah, the fish in the sea.
During the conversation, somebody casually mentioned "the hunt". Guys know what I'm talking about. There is an unmistakable feeling when you're freshly single, and you remember what it's like to hunt for your food instead of having it brought to you. You are a cheetah that has been raised in captivity, finally released into the wild. The adrenaline rush as you walk into the club (safari) and take a moment to scan the bar (watering hole) for women (fauna/prey).
It's before you realize you've been in captivity for so long that you've forgotten how to hunt (let's not even think about mating yet; ten hours of Panda pr0n couldn't help you now). It's before you look down and realize you have your black Nike socks and loafers on; before you realize that this prey doesn't want to be hunted.
These women are zebra, or antelope, or even water buffalo. Some will kick you in the face; others will simply outrun you. Others still are too large to be taken down without a significant risk of injury (emotional, when you wake up the next morning). Before you confront these cold, hard facts, you are taken over by the rush of excitement that comes along with newfound freedom.
Soon, however, it reality hits. It's been two weeks since you've left captivity. You're starving. In the wild, you would do two weeks no problem, but you're used to getting fed daily. You got fat. You got slow. You start wondering what happened to your cheetah body. You start thinking about all that free meat placed right in front of you back in the day. Was it the freshest, Grade-A meat out there? Was it a filet mignon? No, but it was pretty solid meat, and there was plenty of it. Sirloin for days.
Before you know it, you're desperate. You just need a taste, a piece, anything. You end up back at the watering hole, scoping out the same water buffalo that's been there for weeks now. Nobody messes with her - too big. Just leave it be, your wild cheetah buddies tell you. One of these antelope is gonna slow down soon, maybe sprain an emotional ankle, and then you can pounce. Hell, they feel so bad for you that they'll even help you. But not this buffalo. "This one," they say, "you're on your own."
And that's when cheetahs make mistakes.
This actually started in my head as a hunter-gatherer analogy. The gatherer is the relationship man; he has a steady home, and his garden is sustainable. He can eat for free while it replenishes itself, with only minor work on his part. He is free to discover tools, invent the wheel, or win his fantasy football league. Or, he is the captive cheetah, fed meat daily, never worrying about anything higher on the food chain stealing his bounty. He has no competition, and lives a cushy, comfortable, predictable life.
The hunter is the single man. He may not be furthering mankind, but he can definitely kick your ass. He fends for himself in the wild. He is chiseled, sculpted; the hunt demands it of him. Leisure time? Hardly. From sharpening his spear to shopping at Banana Republic, everything he does is geared towards the hunt. He may go weeks without eating, but he can take it. He is a nomad, going wherever the food is. He is the wild cheetah. Every day is a struggle, but it's that very struggle that keeps him alive. You call him an endangered species and try to reason with him, to lure him into the cage filled with meat and water and artificial grass; he says "Fuck off, I can take care of myself."
Anything can be twisted or slanted to sound better or worse than the alternative. I'm not making a case for either one; I'll leave that up to you fellas.
Would you rather be the proud hunter, or the stable gatherer?