Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Enjoyment Can Regress

Mosch and I used to go on a lot of hikes, bicycle rides, etc., and over time I noticed a very strong pattern: experiences that were difficult in the moment often magically transformed into enjoyable after they were done. I could be miserable, sweaty, and working way too hard, and later on say, "Man, that hike was awesome!"

Once I realized this, the point of enjoyment moved backwards in time. I would start thinking the hike was great immediately after we got done. And then eventually I started really enjoying the hike while still hiking. I don't know for sure, but I think there was a causal relationship - the knowledge that I would later feel that I had enjoyed the outing led me to enjoy it in the moment.

I'm finding the same thing with math these days. I keep saying that Ed and I talk about math a lot and implying that it's fun, but in the moment, it's often actually difficult and frustrating. He raises a lot of questions that I don't want to go into because, damn it, I want to get where I'm trying to go, not take a lot of painful side trips. I don't want to work "uphill" all the time. I want to only talk about the parts I understand. I certainly don't want to learn anything new.

But later, I invariably retrospectively enjoy the conversations. It's not just that I enjoy having had them; I actually feel as though, in retrospect, I enjoyed them at the time. The memories are pleasurable. And I now feel that enjoyment regressing, happening earlier and earlier. Sometimes I am even aware of enjoying the math conversations in the moment.

Does this happen to other people?

1 comment:

Sally said...

I can't say that I've noticed it happen to me.