Pressing Buttons

Pressing Buttons
Photo by Allen Chen/ UCSD Guardian

I remember reading somewhere about a study done on people (or maybe gorillas?) that placed them in a single, white-walled room. In the middle of said room, there would be a red button that delivered an electric shock whenever it was touched. Obviously, when someone was put in an empty room with nothing but a button, they would press it — and find that it would shock the hell out of them. 

But what scientists didn’t expect was that despite the promise of pain, people eventually would approach the button again. Possibly out of something like boredom, anxiety, or just simple curiosity, they continued to press the button despite the shock. 

Recently, I was talking with my roommate about relationships. Specifically mine, which just ended — painfully close to Valentine’s Day. In an effort to console me, he was telling me about how all things have an expiration date. Milk, eggs, desks, chairs, everything material eventually deteriorates into nothing. He applied this to metaphysical subjects too; friendships inevitably end, feelings subside, and so does love. 

Some people, I think, find this scary. And I don’t blame them. What’s the use in putting your all into something that won’t last? Does that mean that even if you can, you shouldn’t press the button because you know it will hurt?

NO!

The fact of the matter is this: that all things must end. But I find it is exactly life’s finite nature that makes it so special. If you had your favorite food every day, it would probably not be your favorite food for long. Things are special because they are fleeting — these brief glimpses of love, joy, anger and sadness all make up the human experience. It is the irrefutable nature of our impending demise that makes everything we do so worthwhile. We have so few chances, so little time to leave behind anything that actually matters. Therefore, we must dive for the brush and paint color into our lives. But here is where I disagree with my roommate: I think that metaphysical concepts don’t expire.

Sure, you will have a falling out with a friend. You will break up with a lover. Someone you know will die. Those are all indisputable facts. But even though you may not see those people again, you will surely remember. That feeling when you first fell in love, cried when you drove away, or just that one day where everything seemed perfect — these feelings and memories never expire. 

“Hang on,” I can already hear you thinking, “When I die that will all disappear!” Well, I’ll tell you what, genius — when you die, you can come and tell me whether or not that’s true. But in the meantime, go! Get out and learn guitar. Do something you’ve never done before. Tell that someone that you like them. Because in a world of uncertainties, I know only two things:

  1. Everything must end.
  2. That at the very end of our lives, we should look back and not yearn for what could have been. We should take our risks, be glad we got hurt, and regardless of difficulty — try to make things right. 

Even now, despite sleepless nights, I can understand why we keep pushing the button: for it is better to have loved and lost, rather than to have never loved at all.

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About the Contributor
Allen Chen, Illustrator
Allen Chen is a third year HCI Design major, and a lactose-intolerant ice cream lover.
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