There are really a tremendous number of stupid things that human beings choose to do. Seriously, take a look at the group as a whole. Some of us hurl ourselves out of planes. Others rebuild a house that has been ruined by forest fires more than once, then act shocked when it happens again. There are all sorts of wacky, nonsensical things we do with seemingly no motivation at all. Well, in our continuing efforts to periodically waste your time with pointless philosophical musings, we here at BrainLazy have developed a theory to explain a wide swath of these self destructive behaviors. It turns out we like to live on the edge.
Now, when I say that, I don’t mean it in some sort of cheesy “live life to the extreme” buzzword way… Well, I do, but not JUST in that way. What I mean is that, for some reason, people crave border conditions. We like to be where one thing meets another. Just look where we choose to live if we have the money (or vacation if we don’t have the money). The beach is a popular one. Most large cities are close to the coast, and the ocean meeting the land is the mother of all borders, geologically speaking. If you can’t swing beach front property, lakefront is a popular substitute. People like to go to the mountains, too, but you’ll notice that they don’t usually live ON the mountain. Instead, they live right around where the mountain starts to flatten out. In other words, the border between mountain and plain. Likewise for the forest. We prefer to live right near the fringe, so you can SEE the forest. Even the suburbs appeal to us by being between the city and the country. So strong is this urge to wedge ourselves between two dissimilar locations that we will continue to do it even once it becomes clear that it is an awful idea. Coastal regions flood, mountains have landslides, forests have fires, and suburbs … well, it’s hard to get good pizza there late at night.
Speaking of food, this is an area where our penchant for contrast is less destructive, but no less apparent. If you slap together two things that don’t belong together, you are probably onto a taste sensation. Peanut butter and jelly is the prime example here. If you can manage to unite two opposites, all the better. Oreos are black and white, as are black and whites, obviously. Reese’s Peanut butter cups are so delicious because peanut butter and chocolate are actually opposites. (Very few people know that.) And if you want to be considered a gourmet? Just create flavor combinations that defy logic. Caramel and red snapper? Brilliant! Squid and watermelon? Genius! Salmon roe ice cream? You, sir, are an iron chef. Eventually, as is so frequently the case, rich people take it to the logical extreme by combining food with things that aren’t even edible. Hence gold leaf truffles and the Faberge egg.
Now, “living on the edge” had to have become a buzzword for some reason. In this case, the edge that they are talking about is the edge between life and death. Anything that brings us close to the ultimate border appeals to some of us. Thus we invent things like bungie jumping, sky diving base jumping, and all of those other reckless misuses of gravity. We also seek to dance on either side of more abstract things, like the sound barrier. And let’s not forget that International Space Station we put up in low earth orbit. You can’t get much edgier than that!
So we’ve established THAT people like to straddle the line, regardless of what that line is. The question now is WHY people are into it. My theory is simple. People like choices, and they are impatient. Let’s say you wake up one morning with the urge to surf. Unless you’re on the beach, chances are pretty good you’ve got a road trip ahead of you, and screw that! The same goes for skiing and the mountains and hiking and the woods. Sure, I like candy, but I also like meat, so why not dunk that strip of bacon in chocolate? And I’m not really interested in traveling the afterlife right now, but maybe if I get close enough, I can see what it looks like. That might be fun. I’m not sure what wrinkle in our brain or evolutionary conditioning caused this to occur. Maybe proto-humans living on the border between the mountains and the plains had a better chance at survival. All I know is that this bizarre compulsion seems to be a major driving force in the species. Now if you’ll excuse me, ever since I mentioned chocolate bacon, I haven’t been able to concentrate… This might be the best thing since that peanut butter burger I had.