The Blog

Life on a Treadmill

Is it comforting that we do the same things year in year out? Do we do them because it is important to humans to find a common ground? Or do we do the same things because we fear not doing them?

I have this thought that enters my head every so often. It is a thought about aliens. (I promise you I'm not as strange as I sound).

My thought is that if aliens did exist, and they were keeping a close eye on humans (as is expected in the sci-fi books and movies), they would think us pretty odd. Odd in lots of ways but the way I'm thinking about this time is how much we cling to tradition and routine and doing the same things over and over and over again.

The trigger for my latest chain of thought is the massive build up everywhere around us for Christmas. Christmas adverts, early Christmas decorations, Christmas events. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas. I think it's awesome and I get so excited at the thought of gorgeous holidays and presents and all that. But when you really stop to think about it, isn't it strange how we do things in exactly the same way every year?

I get that there are things we can't change, for example the pretty major birth date of the Man himself. But all the commercialisation around it has become almost ritual and the pre-Christmas conversations play back on repeat together with the same soundtrack. I can't remember a new Christmas album song since East 17's Stay Another Day.

It feels like we are on a treadmill. We start talking about Christmas shopping during the Autumn, firstly with horror at how far away it is and secret envy at those who have started, and then we move into panicked conversations about not having done it in November. We get unbelievably excited at big name shopping adverts coming out. They are launched with great fanfare now and we act a bit like lemmings, blindly getting sucked in.

The treadmill is not confined to Christmas. We follow a formula for a year and then we begin again the next year. We promote diets, detoxing and healthy eating in January. We make resolutions we will never keep. We make single people feel awful in February. We make ourselves feel inadequate about our bodies in late spring as we prepare for our summer holidays. Magazines, chat shows and shops all tell us we need to fit a mould for the summer if we are to dare to bare our flesh. These are the clothes we should wear and this is the size we should be.

And then we breathe a sigh of relief as the weather turns cooler. We can put our clothes back on as we move into Autumn and we turn our attentions to children going back to school, students starting universities, Halloween and bonfire night coming up, and of course, starting those pre-Christmas conversations again. We can even include in this the favourite TV shows that we now relate to a certain time in each year.

So these aliens who may be watching us probably stopped watching us quite a while ago because it must have looked like we are playing out our lives on a loop and there was no useful intelligence to be gathered from us other than that we are creatures of habit.

Is it comforting that we do the same things year in year out? Do we do them because it is important to humans to find a common ground? Or do we do the same things because we fear not doing them?

I realise I sound like a cynic and I don't mean to. For I welcome the comfort of sameness, of routine, of looking forward to the things I am familiar with each year and of being able to plan them better, perhaps differently, to the year before.

But of course we do need the different bits in between. The non-routine things in our lives are so important. They make things interesting, they make things unpredictable, and they make the 'same' things feel like familiar friends who we take pleasure in introducing our next generation to.

So up there at alien HQ, it may be like The Truman Show and they may have dozed off with boredom, but maybe one day we will surprise them, break with tradition and do things a little differently. Just to keep the aliens on their toes.