The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Because there was a rooster on the other side? Because it had evolved legs? Because its muscles, tendons, and ligaments provided the leverage for propulsion? Because it had eaten enough corn and worms to provide energy? Because its sensory apparatus provided information that there was food on the other side? Because...because...

There are actually endless possible answers to that question. All interesting. All partial. And in the same way, we have endless possible reasons why we, as human beings, do the things we do. If you are a biologist, you might answer the question one way. An evolutionary psychologist, another. A behaviorist, another. And so on, and so on.

If you are a writer, it is critical that you have the best-rounded understanding of human and animal behavior that you can manage. You must have a solid theory of WHY we do what we do, and be prepared to defend it through the structure of mythic argumentation. I just made that term up, but hopefully you know what I mean.

If you are interested in getting the most out of your life every day, you need to be able to look at the motivations of human beings from every conceivable angle, and each perspective will teach you something different. Don't get "stuck" in one point of view, like some political bigot who can only see his side of the issue.

If you are interested in minimizing the stress in your life, you MUST understand how your mind came to interpret your life situation as threatening. How and why it engaged a warning system designed for escaping tigers when the bill collectors call. When your kids misbehave at school. It is NOT a tiger, and you have time to take a deep breath, calm your responses, and think things through--if you let yourself.

Every road you take will show you a different face of the mountain, which is always, always, larger than our experience of it.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it did. What you believe that means says more about you than it ever will about chickens or roads.


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Marty S said...

There's a song, "The bear went over the mountain." It goes something like this:

The bear went over the mountain,the bear went over the mountain.
To see what he could see, to see what he could see.
The other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain,
was all that he could see.

Its always been a favorite of mine for what it says, which is I see as pretty similar to what you say in this post.

Anonymous said...

"To Die. In the Rain. Alone" -- Ernest Hemingway