Excitement as Biological Neccessity

William S. Burroughs said:

Danger is a biological necessity for humans, just like sleep and dreams. If you face death, for that time you are immortal. For the Western middle classes, danger is a rarity and erupts only with a sudden, random shock. And yet we are in danger at all times, since our death exists. Is there a technique for confronting death without immediate physical danger? (quoted from Hashisheen: The End of Law)

But this is at least partially incorrect. Western middle classes, at least those of us in the United States, typically face physical danger multiple times per day. Driving is amongst the most dangerous activities in modern society – 114 people die in car crashes per day. Cars accidents deaths per year are more than double the number of murders per year. The average American spends 101 minutes driving each day. We confront death every day, and we barely even notice.

The dangers involved in driving are commonplace, boring. New dangers though – new dangers are exciting. Perhaps Michael Skinner was more correct when he said:

Geezerz need excitement
If their lives don’t provide them this they incite violence
Common sense simple common sense

1 Comment

  1. Related, Alan Moore and Brian Eno in conversation about man eating spiders:

    AM:
    Your choice of luxury on Desert Island Discs was, I think, initially a life-times supply of interesting drugs… and then you thought that would probably be boring and that what you would in fact would prefer was a giant man eating spider that would… [Eno laughs]… do you remember saying this?

    BE:
    No, no… I don’t think that’s true.

    AM:
    Well, that’s a shame, because that completely blows my question. Let’s pretend… [general laughter]… that you did say that your choice of luxury on the desert island was a giant man-eating spider to keep you alert… [Eno still laughing]… to keep you creative and to force you to think of new solutions to deal with the giant man eating spider.

    BE:
    [still laughing]… I wish I’d thought of that but I don’t think I did. I think I stopped at the life-time’s supply of hallucinogenic drugs actually.

    AM:
    That’s where I would have stopped… but if you had said that… imagine… then given the current terror saturated global situation, have we all been given the luxury of our own giant man-eating spider?

    BE:
    Yes. That’s a very good point. Yes.

    AM:
    …and do you think that when the pressure’s on that that does actually force people into novel and creative solutions?

    BE:
    There are some novel and creative solutions growing now. As people have lost faith in politics… I think particularly in this country for the last few years… they’re starting to realise that if they want to do things they had better get them done together and do them themselves. One of the most… in fact the most exciting thing to me about the internet is the birth of a new democratic culture which I think hundreds of thousands of people are now participating in… making new experiments in social innovations… government… I think this is all so much more exciting than anything that’s going on in politics right now. Somebody just wrote an interesting essay called The Second Superpower, based on something Noam Chomsky said… Chomsky said that there are two superpowers now. There’s the United Sates and there’s World Opinion… and it’s the second one that interests me really.

    From: http://web.archive.org/web/20061027050811/http://www.readyourselfraw.com/profiles/moore/moore_vs_eno/chainreaction_eno.htm

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