Loki lunges after every car that passes.
“What would you do if you caught one?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer.
But his silence gives me a chance to think about how people are like dogs.
The car we chase, of course, is control.
Ever wonder what would happen if we caught the car?
I know of two interesting possibilities.
One is the sedated, carefully emotionless dystopia of The Giver (2014), now available on DVD. (Can’t catch the movie? Read the book. It’s even better.)
Another is Wall-E’s (2008) depiction of a fat, comfort-soaked future where robots do all the work and humans have nothing to do but develop morbid obesity.
What these two visions share is a recognition of humanity’s craving for comfort, aversion to pain, and how disastrous it would be if we ever managed to gratify both totally.
Life would change fundamentally, they agree. And it wouldn’t be pretty.
It wouldn’t even be life.
Seventy-six years ago Aldous Huxley took the same view in Brave New World (1939). That novel describes a world where war, aging, illness, hunger and anxiety have been largely eradicated, and features this dialogue between two characters called the Controller and the Savage:
Controller: We prefer to do things comfortably.
Savage: But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.
Controller: In fact, you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.
Savage: All right then, I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.
Controller: Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.
Savage: I claim them all.
My point here is simple.
Like all animals, we’re wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
But we’re the only animals able to exert control over the world into which we are born.
In many ways, this is a good and useful thing.
But given our tendency to overcontrol reality…
God help us if we ever catch that car.