Breeding Contemptible Green Familiarities

The old sayings ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ and ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ are basically the same, and another way of looking at it is through the phenomenon of adaptation. I’ve been thinking about this recently since reading an interesting article on salon.com about happiness. One notion in there is how, once we adapt to situations, we tend to discount their value. This is true for bad as well as good situations. We are able to adapt to almost anything. On the one hand, this is how we can survive really terrible conditions. On the other hand, it’s what makes us take things for granted and let good things lose their luster. The example in the article is how people meet the love of their lives and then after a time get used to having that, and so its value declines. Once we adapt, the bad situation loses much of its badness, and the good situation sheds much of its goodness. We can go to work in awful conditions, and it’s just another day in the coal mine. We can have all the riches and fame one can desire, and it’s all so dreadfully dull. The “cure” (in terms of living more happily) is variety, change, and action. Don’t let love be a noun but a verb (as another old saying goes). It’s only when you let things go stale that they get moldy.

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