Boiling Frog Syndrome
written June 17, 2008
The boiling frog syndrome: If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you place a frog in lukewarm water and gradually turn up the heat, it will boil to death.
I was playing pool with my cousin the other day, and in the background (not by choice) was an episode of Oprah. I don't know what sort of sappy nonsense Oprah normally features on her sorry excuse for a talk show, but this particular episode was about people who are terminally ill. If you think about it, life itself is a terminal illness, because we are all going to die. There is nothing special about death. There is only one feature that distinguishes terminally ill patients from the rest of the population. The terminally ill are unique because they know approximately when they are going to die, and that approximation is usually soon. In light of that information, their entire life perspective changes dramatically. That is what this show was about.
I wasn't paying close attention, but most of the guests seemed, not necessarily happy, but without regret. They were at terms with their imminent death. In coming to terms with this, they had to reprioritize everything in life they thought important. The underlying theme seemed to be the reprioritization of genuine happiness over ostensible happiness. In other words, grass was greener and food tasted better, whereas material possessions were not important at all. Everything we usually take for granted had a new appreciation attached to it. The things that were supposed to matter actually mattered.
In terms of my introductory quote, the terminally ill are the frogs placed in a vat of boiling water. They immediately feel the heat and act accordingly. The rest of us are frogs in lukewarm water with the heat slowly rising. We know we’re going to die, but we don’t appreciate it until old age, so we essentially choose to ignore it. We are all frogs… coasting listlessly through life… until we boil to death…
(You like my use of ellipses? It's partly for completely unnecessary dramatic effect, but mostly to poke fun at people who use them too much. I had to point that out because I'm sure you're too dumb to catch on to my subtle methods of ridicule. Also, this small paragraph was for comic relief, as I don’t usually write pieces this serious.)
So all this leads to something I've thought for a while. Clichés become cliché for a reason: they're true. If Babe Ruth never stepped up to the plate for fear of striking out, he never would have set a home run record. If Abraham Lincoln gave up after losing his first election, he never would have become one of the greatest presidents America will ever know. Without getting too sappy, I just think it's important that we all appreciate these clichés. You can't win if you don't put your chips in the middle. Success in life means taking risks. Fear of failure and rejection will cause you to miss out on more opportunity than failure and rejection alone. So get out there. Fall off the bike. Apply to a top tier school. Let girls turn you down. Post a blog that makes fun of yourself. Get your hands dirty. Otherwise you're going to coast through life and wake up one morning wondering what could have happened if only I did things differently...
To tell the truth, the whole reason I got to thinking about this is because I haven't been able to work up the balls to ask a girl to hang out. It's funny, because I usually write girls off as disposable pleasures as opposed to meaningful pursuits, make fun of them without reservation, and couldn't care less what they think of me. More often than not, that would lead to flirting and sex. But with this one, she's not a stupid whore. Quite to the contrary, she's incredibly smart, her unpredictable humor is born from her enormous wit, and she doesn't know how beautiful she is. And she has a heart of gold. And morals. That's the kind of thing that gets me tongue tied. Hot slut? They're a dime a dozen. Funny girl who can hold up her end of a conversation? Ohhhh baby.
So with all that said, I'm going to start writing and posting a lot more.
And while you're sitting at home reading my stupid fucking blog, I'm going to be out living life to the fullest, i.e. sitting at home writing my stupid fucking blog — it's all the same to me.
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- You Get What You Give