Monday, December 16, 2013

a problem with novelty

 by Joan Savage

I'm mulling over how humans are drawn to novelty. In this characteristic we are a lot like other mammals and some birds.  

In one story, some indigenous people in Amazonia had a cure for headaches, but they were so fascinated by a bottle of aspirin that they ignored what they already had locally for free and bartered for aspirin. 

That dynamic seems so familiar.  Advertising is built on images of new, special, rare, best.

We may be fascinated by risks that are novel, too, more attentive, at least for a time, to a rare danger than a nearby familiar danger. That could be a survival skill.   

If we really accept that an earthquake will happen along a fault line, and build for that inevitability, no matter how indefinite the timing, we've done a good thing.  But, having a stockpile for disaster is not an excuse to forget to stop at a red light or brush one's teeth.

Do things come back in perspective when we satisfy our curiosity and sense of preparedness about a formerly novel item or risk? 

Curiosity has been both a delight and a curse.