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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Gramps out to pasture

In my workaday travels, I get the opportunity to see members of the human species in all sorts or naturalistic and unnaturalistic settings. It strikes me as altogether fitting that when folks grow old, they find themselves a way of going out to pasture, and spend their waning days munching figuratively on green leaves in a wide open space. So what is this modern day equivalent of a pasture?

Why, a casino of course.

They come to these places by the bus load, and succored by dazzling lights, noises, and cheap buffets, they fix their eyes raptly on spinning wheels engraved with bells, stars, and cherries. Gambling commandeers this instinctual baggage, shared by parrots and people, to seek out new and different things. Called a seeking or foraging response, it simply reflects our sensitivity to positive events that stray from the expected. The seeking response is an integral part of everything we do, and without it, we would hardly have need to change from the same old routines of life. As kids, the seeking response is a McDonald's or Disney playland, as adults its the unexpected challenge of career and family, and as old folks it's in the unexpected roll of a die. When we are very old or very young, the seeking response is unvarnished by higher purposes of work and family, it is just exploration pure and simple. It is play. And indeed, when out to pasture life and the reason to live become no more than a game, a purpose I would hope that heaven shares.

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