At least some readers will be familiar with Schopenhauer’s Hedgehog’s Dilemma, but those who aren’t it uses a metaphor of hedgehogs on a cold winter’s night pulling in their quills so that they can huddle closer together for warmth. Adversity gets people to pull their quills in, and when there isn’t adversity, they stick them right out again.
It’s been something I’ve been flipping around in my head for a long time. The problem with the comparison to humans is that we run around starting fires – some are for warmth, some aren’t and burn out of control.
When we build the fires for warmth, we gather around them like a campfire. Some stare at the fire, mesmerized, some put their backs to it and stare into the darkness so that they aren’t surprised by things that go bump in the darkness – some sit closer to the fire, some sit further back. Some get singed because they’re too close, too.
In the modern day, ‘fires’ are what we agree on. Common interests. Maybe sports. Maybe art. Maybe climbing mountains, or maybe sending around memes on social media.
And so the metaphor slowly falls away, but the basic idea that adversity causes people to come together is still there – and comfort tends to push people apart.