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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Sunday, December 18, 2005

the responsibility gene

After a day of laborious coughing, my cold is dying off. Kimmie is now fighting its onset with ginseng capsules. Mainly though she's puttering happily in the kitchen, devoting the day to Xmas baking.

And me, I spent the morning down here in the office keying notes. I had not a great deal of inspiration with any one topic, so I floated from book to book--Beyond the Essene Hypothesis; Identity: Youth and Crisis; Peoples, Nations and Cultures; A History of Warfare. I found myself venturing out to Amazon.com to see what I could find on the subject of evil, a key topic for the Essenes and Jewish theology of that period in general. What do I really know about evil, anyway? A search based on the word evil brought up two books on the subject. By far the more promising was Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty by Roy F. Baumeister (4.5-star average rating). I went to Abebooks.com and bought a used copy there from a bookseller in Gilroy, California. I love having books traveling toward me in the mail!

Again, I spent more time doing book-related work today than I usually would on a Sunday, and again I put it down to having a cold. Being sick removes responsibility. I tried to describe this to Kimmie.

"By being sick I don't feel I'm responsible for doing anything, so I just do what I want. Usually, I stop doing what I want because there are things I should be doing, then I wind up not doing those things anyway."

Kimmie nodded emphatically. She knew exactly what I was talking about.

As I took a short constitutional walk in the afternoon sun (blazing low in a clear blue sky; sidewalks covered thickly with frost in the shadows), I thought about how this is probably how vacations work. People need to "get away" not so much for a change of scenery or climate, but to escape responsibilities. When you're at home, you feel guilty about not doing the vacuuming or fixing that broken tile. You can't enjoy time off because of your shoulds. So you take a stressful, expensive vacation to some other place where you can't do your vacuuming or fix that tile. If you can give yourself permission not to be responsible for those things, you could vacation at home, cheaply and with real relaxation.

How to switch of that responsibility gene (it doesn't even really function in my case anyway); then I could get productive, probably. Hmm...

Reminds me of a joke that Kimmie and I came up with, and which she used on her bosses at work, reportedly to hilarious effect. When they asked how she felt about something, she said, "I was born without the caring gene, and I've had my happiness gland removed."

I just want to suppress the responsibility gene. Maybe my cold is helping me out.

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