I have a Pleasure Center in my brain. I don’t know what that part of the brain is called, but I know where it is. It is midpoint between my ears.
This isn’t the place where deep thought happens. This is the Cave Man Center.
If you want to find out what a stimulates a young man, ask him about his bachelor party. You find out a lot about someone from their bachelor party. That is where the Cave Man happens.
I apologize for what I’m about to share with you, and I realize that it is in really poor taste. But I need to tell you the whole truth. I need to tell you about my Cave Man.
My bachelor party was at my favorite Chinese restaurant.
My friends asked me what I wanted to do for my bachelor party, and I started telling them about this place that makes the best fried dumplings in the world. 108 North 10th Street, if you must know. And I told them that if they really wanted to celebrate my upcoming nuptials, that fried dumplings had to be part of the party.
We arrived at my Favorite Chinese Restaurant, and we explained our plan.
We wanted to order fried dumplings.
We wanted the restaurant to prepare them.
We wanted to eat them.
A lot of them.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
The restaurant staff seemed kind of surprised.
We started with an order of 10 plates of fried dumplings.
When they arrived, we didn’t wait. We ordered 10 more. “Keep them coming”, we said.
They seemed kind of surprised. Stunned, actually.
I guess no one ever ordered 20 plates of fried dumplings before.
We didn’t stop there, either. We kept ordering, and we kept eating.
I have a vague memory of people coming out of the kitchen to stare at us.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that sometimes bad stuff happens when I act like a Cave Man.
Last year I found myself lying on my back, with my cardiologist staring at a picture of my heart on a TV screen.
“Hmmmm”, he said.
He muttered something about my blockages looking like fried dumplings.
I’m a vegetarian now. “Struggling vegetarian” is more like it. I struggle with it, because I get almost no pleasure out of eating vegetables.
I don’t get the Pavlovian drooling response from the thought of a plate of broccoli. I just don’t.
What did Pavlov use when he wanted to create a drooling response from his dogs?
When I was young (or as one of my cousins says, “back in the olden days”), we were taught the senses of taste. There were 4 tastes- Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Salty.
A few years ago, they added Umami, which is a savory/meaty taste.
And just this year, they added a sixth taste: Fatty.
Anyone who didn’t know that we are wired to respond to meat and fat hasn’t been to a Chinese restaurant with me.
My wife used to have a dog named Jester. Read about her in my blog called (you guessed it) “Jester”.
Jester was not a rocket scientist. Jester used to chew on her own tail, and she would keep chewing until she bled. Her family would yell at her: “Jester, stop chewing on your tail!”
I understood Jester. She would do things that were bad for her, and she couldn’t help herself.
Neither can I.
This is where the people who love me say things like “everything in moderation, Hal”.
It isn’t possible for me to order fried dumplings in moderation. That is an itch that I have to scratch until I’m done scratching. When I’m done scratching, I’m bleeding.
One of the reasons that I write this is that I am not alone in this.
I have coffee sometimes with the Fried Dumpling Crowd. We talk.
Sometimes we talk about Fried Dumplings, and how the Eagles are doing.
But sometimes we talk about Deeper Stuff. Stuff like chewing our own tails, and why we chew our tails until we bleed.
And the truth is…..we don’t know. We can’t seem to help ourselves.
And each one of us chews our own tail in a different self-destructive way.
I can see them chewing their tails. They can see me chewing my tail.
But sometimes we can’t see ourselves chewing our own tails until our tails are bleeding.
I’m not unique in this. I think that this is part of the human condition.
- Scott Peck devoted the first 1/4 of his book “The Road Less Traveled” to the topic of Discipline. Discipline is when I do things that I don’t want to do, or I don’t do things that I do want to do (that aren’t good for me). Exerting discipline is good for me.
It is obvious why we would do things that are good for us. Those things are in our own best interests.
But why do we do things that are not good for us? And why do we avoid doing things that are good for us?
Why do we do things that are not in our own best interests?
Why do we chew on our own tails?
One response to “Fried Dumplings”
Some thoughts from others wiser or at least quoted more than I am.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” ― Oscar Wilde
“Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.”
― Robert A. Heinlein
As for whether chewing our own tails in understandable, I think we are edging into ethics. Some things are simple: Kill the cave-lion with my club before it drinks the blood of my mate and children. That is not a difficult decision (those who decided wrong have long since been deleted from the gene-pool)
Other things are more complex. Internally.
Externally, it’s pretty simple. We do things that are self-harming because the enjoyment of the moment is more powerful than our knowledge that the pain will be greater ahead.
There are two alternatives (at least) that I can see. We can deny that chewing on the tail results in bleeding. Or we can say that chewing on the tail serves a higher good.