What We Repeatedly Do

I was vegetarian for seven years. That's not precise. I was an invertebratarian. While in grad school I was at a philosophy of biology faculty dinner and asked the lecturer if she thought invertebrates could feel pain. Her position was that an animal lacking a central nervous system was also likely lacking the evolutionary machinery necessary to process pain. A cornerstone of my vegetarianism, along with youthful rebellion, was the avoidance of causing unnecessary pain. So I invented my own diet. Mollusks. Crabs. Shrimp. If you were the kind of food that doesn't have the courage of your convictions, your spineless ass got ate. And it carried on that way until I moved to Chicago.

It needs to be said and triple underlined, that I love meat. I'd take a steak over being loved. My Dad and I would grill steaks on Thanksgiving because fuck turkey in its dry, dry ass. Side bar, I miss watching Rocky movies and eating steak with my pops. Giving up meat was not easy for me, but I had my reasons. But over the years, the ghost of meat stopped haunting mealtime. My love died and I accepted my new reality.

Menus shrank. My eyes only processed meatless dishes. I had created a fortress of belief which governed my behavior. I never broke. Never gave an inch. Never took a weekend off. But one night, in a shitty Wrigleyville bar, with friends, I ate a chicken wing.

I couldn't remember the Nick that took a principled stance against animal harm. He was a yearbook photo. He and I were connected only by technicality, a dim awareness of truth which created no meaningful bond outside of habit.

The Nick who tore chicken from the bone that night had been separated from his philosophical belief for years. That Nick stopped caring about animal cruelty long ago, his behavior propelled by the ferocious and invisible hand of habit. But Habit, oh Habit, You quiet monster. Your torrid relationship with time is toxic. Habit glosses over your sense of agency. It obscures your immutable freedom, outlining a well-trodden path when every direction is sensible.

Quarantine has been a reset button for my habits. Everything is up for grabs. I deleted Pokemon Go which I had launched fifty times a day, everyday, for three years. After losing my sense of smell, I found alcohol aversive and didn't drink for a month. I have since found joy in having the occasional drink, particularly the Gold Rush which is a phenomenally refreshing little ditty. I've started making food at home instead of defaulting to delivery, but also started staying up until 4AM because time is a flat circle. In a few short weeks, my wiring has been fundamentally altered. It's shocking how quickly what is can feel like what always was.

So I've been putting my habits under the microscope. Some serve me phenomenally well, like making coffee as the first thing after waking up. Others, like my desire for beer, are quelled by putting a lazily flavored carbonated beverage next to it. It turns out I choose La Croix every time.

I'm not interested in prescribing habits to you. I don't have any idea whether my decision to start eating meat again was beneficial, but habits aren't occasional jaunts; they are the foundation of our behavior, creating the framework of our everyday. They should be vetted, scrutinized, considered and then reconsidered. I've operated under the ghost of an older operating system for years at a time. And what we do over and over, with near robotic automation, should be carefully considered. We should choose our habits precisely because we are slaves to them. I'd rather crash a plane than land safely on autopilot.

Do you hear me, Habits?

This is your Captain speaking.

No comments :

Post a Comment