Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Binge and purge

I have a binging problem. I don't do alcohol binges or cocaine-fueled gambling binges or even relatively benign nitrous oxide binges. My problem is with cartoons. Mostly web comics and anime. When I first started reading Questionable Content, I spent at least one entire evening riveted to my desk, clicking through episode after episode. My experience was similar with Girly and Order of the Stick, even though their quality didn't really merit the single-minded fascination with which I devoured them. And there have been a number of anime series for which, while watching, I had to force myself to go to sleep because the sun was rising. There's something about the decadence of wasting an entire day doing something utterly worthless which I find strangely appealing.

The draw has been even stronger in recent days after finishing my NIPS paper. When I have a substantial goal with a well-defined deadline, I tend to push myself as hard as I can, all the while envisioning all of the pleasures I've deferred along the way. But when I finally finish, the freedom crashes over me like a tidal wave and drowns me, rather than carrying me aloft. In college, after finishing my finals, I generally curled up in a ball in my room for days at a time, leaving only to make use of the kitchen and the bathroom. After my Master's defence, I holed up in my parents house for two weeks, mostly watching HBO movies. Similarly, for the past few days I've had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I barely managed to buy groceries over the weekend, and I left lab yesterday perhaps seven hours after I arrived, including an hour-long nap and some mindless internet surfing.

I think the problem is that when you finish pushing a boulder to what appeared to be the top of a mountain, although the boulder may not exactly roll down the other side, you very clearly see that you've only reached a small plateau, and the mountain extends indefinitely. While small goals can be defined and achieved, one cannot extrapolate from the limited objectives of daily life to the general motivation for life itself. I am Sisyphus, but I don't imagine that Sisyphus is happy.

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