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May 20th, 2019
Hunger fades if you don’t feed it.
This simple statement underlines and undermines many of the tendencies, processes, habits, and concepts that are discussed on Tinkered Thinking.
Just for a moment, think about how many areas of life to which this simple statement applies:
Take the most literal area:
For those who have not experimented and experienced the act and practice of fasting, it may seem unbelievable and certainly counter-intuitive that literal hunger – that is, for food – lessens as time goes by without it. As mentioned before on episode 216 of Tinkered Thinking, there was once a one Angus Barbieri, who in the mid 1960’s fasted for 382 days. Remember that little fact the next time you hear yourself say “I’m starving!” and wonder if that hunger you feel is so strong simply because it is fed so much. For those who do have experience with fasting, it becomes a relatively mundane experience to get over the initial hump of hunger into landscapes of being that are far less perturbed by agitations from the organ we fill with food.
We can look at the opposite of this subtopic: generally, those who feed their hunger obediently at every beck and call fall victim to the skewed balance of the hormones ghrelin and leptin that evolution has equipped us with in order to heavily influence our decision-making abilities to take in as many calories as possible. The result in a modern society with an abundant availability of calories via all bready and sugar plumped products is, obesity.
For a person with ample experience fasting it can seem sickly humorous to see an over-weight person near desperation with hunger, exclaiming that they are starving, but a more thoughtful understanding of such circumstances will ultimately reveal that such an overweight person actually is experiencing a disturbingly powerful hunger. One far bigger and more powerful than anything the lean and fasting person feels. The obese person must experience a hunger that must definitely be uncomfortable and intoxicating in the most debilitating way possible. It speaks to the flip of the original statement.
Hunger grows the more it is fed.
But enough of the literal example. The most interesting aspect of this realization comes from the question: does this statement and trend apply beyond the most literal example of hunger for food?
What about something like… curiosity, or learning?
The educational system, as a global endeavor seems to be in a perpetual state of crisis for killing the natural curiosity in children. The kids we give birth to are almost always so enthusiastic, energetic and riled up with wonder, and yet we somehow manage to turn them into adults to our own great disappointment.
Might it be because our systems of “education” don’t really feed natural curiosity, and so when that hunger isn’t fed, it fades away?
The answer seems implicit when we look at the unique cases where an individual has made a living from an obsession with a given topic. Sometimes this can exist within the confines of the educational system, as with some scientists, but it’s perhaps even more evocative when we examine entrepreneurs who decidedly abandon the traditional educational system in favor of a more efficient path of learning led by their obsessive curiosity.
What about other areas of life?
Motivation is another easy one to pin to this principle. Zig Ziglar once remarked excellently, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
This quote speaks directly to the heart of this episode’s M.O. Motivation, like hunger, fades if it is not rejuvenated in some way.
Just like curiosity, our motivation experiences small blips and jumps in accordance to the discoveries we make a la our current problem of investigation. But granted, this problem has to be of sufficient difficulty that is likewise in accordance with the edge of our mental and cognitive powers.
Few things do more to kill motivation than a boring problem.
What about other areas? How might this Rivalnymic principle apply to a place in our lives like relationships, for example.
Relationships are a tricky subject, but even so it’s not hard to see how this simple principle applies.
A relationship that is not fed in accordance to it’s particular needs is bound to whither as people begin to look for fulfillment of such needs in other places, and so the hunger of that particular relationship as defined as the space between some specific set of people…. fades. As physical hunger does. As curiosity will. As motivation often does.
The examples hitherto presented might seem like a giant buzzkill, but the complement to each should be equally apparent. The more we properly feed a relationship, the more likely it is to grow through time. The more we feed curiosity, the more it expands into productive areas, as too with motivation. But returning to physical hunger we reach an impasse where feeding reaches a negative outcome regarding the positive feedback loop we are outlining. Feeding ourselves too much certainly increases our hunger but it seems clear that doing so is ultimately to our own detriment.
What other area of life might be like this?
How about addiction?
Addictions of all types: the more you feed it, the more influence it gains over our behavior. Likewise, the less we feed it with congruent behavior, the less influence it has over a long enough timeline.
[as an aside, it seems that addiction pathways – to speak very generally about the neuroscience here – become ‘hyperdendritic’ when deprived of their primary source of stimulation. To put this in layman’s terms we can think of suffocation. A person can stay underwater calmly for a short amount of time but once fresh oxygen has been absent for a long enough interval, the need for oxygen becomes increasingly pressing, such a person will become very very active and desperate to get that needed air. Neural pathways regarding addiction seem to do something very similar. When deprived of the primary mode of stimulation, such pathways then reach out frantically for stimulation in the same way a drowning person does, but given enough time that pathway will die.]
Regardless, addicts can make full recoveries, but it’s obvious and necessary to note that it is never in the presence of the object of their addiction.
Considering this simple and rudimentary principle, we might apply it to something less obvious like depression.
Do people… feed their depression?
Is depression something we can starve?
Or is it possible that depression is the result of starving other things within ourselves that have faded to points of terrible consequence?
What if, for a moment, we take the answer as being both: depression can both be fed and is the result of not feeding other, more virtuous hungers within our own being.
We may now wonder appropriately: what in our behavior can we change in order to starve the bad things and feed the good things?
This boils down nicely to the tale of two wolves, and the one you feed. There’s the bad wolf that makes life worse and the good wolf that makes life better. Which one you feed determines the quality of tomorrow.
The tale, while moving and relevant to our lives in a vague sort of way, fails to get into the nitty gritty of what it actually takes to make positive changes. The verb feeding has such a positive and pleasurable connotation associated with it. To eat is fun and easy and feels great while it lasts. The flip of the tale, and where it fails is in the notion of fasting, or starving the bad parts of ourselves.
As with most things, we cannot only take into account one face of the coin. The feeding, or eating part. The other side is just as important in order to make productive moves forward. Some things need to be forcefully and painfully starved back down to size, or even out of existence.
Memory is a notable problem here. Many of us simply cannot recall the ecstatic and wide-ranging experience of attention we had as children. That particular hunger has been so completely starved that it’s simply no longer on our radar as a viable mode of being. But our interactions with each other can lead us to conclusions that crack open realizations and revive such modes of being.
Merely coming across an example of an adult who adeptly and fully utilizes the curious attention of their childlike selves shows that it’s possible, and though such a mode might be totally starved within our own selves, we can dare to wonder what can happen if we feed it.