Blog‎ > ‎

Chasing Tails

posted Oct 31, 2016, 11:54 AM by Colleen Getty   [ updated Nov 12, 2016, 6:14 AM ]
Has anybody calculated the time we humans spend watching the little round circle on a screen as it chases around and around. We wait. We salivate. Perhaps we grow anxious—sometimes excited. Pavlov[1] would have a field day. Who needs dogs and dog food and tinkling bells when we have humans and useless information and the beginnings of circles chasing after the ends of circles often followed by a signature beep or blinky-light.

Humans vs Dogs:

Shall we start with the comparison of humans and dogs? I do believe that they are surpassing us. Dang, those dogs are smart. Here we are cleaning up our own poop, soiling our pants instead of just saddling up to a tree, wasting money on layers of clothing while dogs come already outfitted in fur coats. We have to prepare our own meals and though dogs are now eating prime rib and demanding organic we increasingly opt for chicken nuggets—the plywood of the food world—or fruit that has been blended into an oblivion and looks like something they would eat in outer space. Speaking of space, haven’t the dogs already gone there and back?!

Useless Information vs Dog Food:

Now for the even easier comparison which is dog food and useless information. I know I just talked about how dogs are eating better than we humans are these days, but I am talking about the days when dog food was, well—dog food. I recently found out that as a child I was given dog biscuits because they had the reputation of being cheaper than baby biscuits and just as good at keeping teeth clean—dog teeth mom! But, alas, that is another story for another time. Here we are: comparing dog food to useless information, not talking about what some of us remember our parents serving us in years gone by before children became the kings and queens of the free world along with these irrepressible dogs.

So, yes, well—dog food is what we see all around us now and happily digest. It is what we are viewing and reading the most. Useless information has the ability to be so entertaining because it has no parameters like the requirement to be factual or sensitive to people’s feelings or respectful of people’s privacy. We scowl at gawkers, liars, and the seemingly odd while we strut around in the outside world—but flip on the phone or fire up that laptop and we become the gawker, the liar and the side-show. We accept the car accident as “news” and opinion as “fact,” while the media, the stores, the restaurants are more than happy to serve up the dog food we now demand for a premium.

Circles, Signature Beeps and Blinky Lights vs Buzzers, Bells, and Electrical Shocks:

The bells are going off all around us. Our attention is everywhere and therefore nowhere. We pant and wait and pant and wait while that circle spins around. Progress used to stretch forward in a straight line but now it just spins and spins like a dog chasing its tail. Have you ever watched a dog chase its tail? It’s insane and a little scary. It’s surprisingly entertaining and yet you’re not sure how you hope it will end: that the dog catches his tail which will cause him to hurt himself or that the dog falls down after much wasted energy and the resulting unsatisfied exhaustion. Neither outcome is satisfying because you know the whole time that the dog is mistaken—but he won’t listen. He is convinced the tail is worth chasing. He is in it now and he will not back down. He’s gone too far and is close to catching whatever it is, which doesn’t matter because it’s all about winning—winning!

What a tale. It plays out before me each day. It is so backwards and we become more and more like animals. We used to be making progress, but now we aren’t and yet we refuse to believe that. We refuse to stop chasing our tails. We consume dog food now. We work for dogs now. Bells and buzzers have a hold on us and we just keep watching that circle spin and spin and spin . . .


[1] Pavlov's research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also popular culture. Pavlovian conditioning was a major theme in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, Brave New World, and also to a large degree in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

It is popularly believed that Pavlov always signaled the occurrence of food by ringing a bell. However, his writings record the use of a wide variety of stimuli, including electric shocks, whistlesmetronomestuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli, in addition to the ring of a bell.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia