instant gratification

What do Movies have to do with Instant Gratification

Long, long ago, but not too long ago, life was…um…slow.

Our grandfathers and grandmothers, and the ones before them would take their time to move about their daily life. Cooking was slow, eating was a relaxed activity, sleeping was either advanced or extended depending on the culture and climate, working was unhurried, and studying was a deed that did not come packaged with the pressures of performance that exist today. There was more time for the evening cuppa than the rushed sips that we zoom by these days.

So, what happened in between our grandparents or great grandparents, and our parents that caused life to pick up so much pace within such a short span of time?

We could say a lot of things like industrialization and globalization happened – the things that led us to want more out of life, both materially and emotionally. This, in turn, led us towards working our asses off to earn more so we could realize our wants. As we spent more time working, we spent less time on other things like cooking, eating, sleeping and just chilling out. And that is how life began to gather momentum driving us into the middle of the highway during rush hour with so many places to go to, and so many things to do, and yet with so little time to manage.

And that was how it was!


We could say that between the time of our grandparents or great grandparents, and our parents, something else happened that caused us to push the accelerator on this drive called life. And what happened, was this thing called the movies.

How do movies have anything to do with our lives speeding up?

You know what happens in the movies – ideas and concepts move, and they move very quickly. We see seven years happening within a span of three hours in Seven Years in Tibet. In The Godfather movies, we watch generations grow up within hours. And movies like Cloud Atlas even take us through several lifetimes in between several minutes. What happens in the movies, is that the concept of time acquires a faster than light speed.

The common quotient in every movie, is the idea of speed of time. And as we watch more movies, we also get more accustomed to this idea of speed.

Nah! I don’t think so…

In one of my earlier posts, I had written about how the brain works when it is watching a movie. It puts us in the movie, and that is how we emote with the character.

The power of story-telling on the brain is such that we connect with the characters or situations that happen in every story seen and heard. While a regular story simply stimulates the brain…

…a story in the visual media over-stimulates the brain…

…causing us to over-emote.

As we watch the movie, we also become the character who happens to grow up pretty quickly, either physically, mentally or both. And that automatically means, we too are growing up pretty quickly along with the character.

Yes, we not just emoting when we are watching a movie. We are also over-doing it. The chemicals in the brain that are released during the process of story-telling, go on an overdrive during a movie watching session. All the views, reviews, and crazy fan moments over actors who just happen to be regular people going about their work, happens because of the spill over of drama that is caused by our brain chemicals going on an overdrive. Simply put, watching a movie or a television serial establishes the idea of drama into our lives. Very strongly.

And speed is also a drama.

How is it that way?

Speed is something that we want to make life more interesting. At the same time, it is also something that is completely unnecessary, unless we have a life to save. But in this case, the brain, because of the panic situation, will automatically put us on speed mode.

But a movie is only a few hours experience…

The brain’s feed comes from habit-creation. As TV and movie-watching become a habit, so does the idea of speed.

That is why we are always in a hurry to go somewhere and do something because our brain is always egging us on in multiple ways to speed up and hurry on. And the brain eggs us because we have trained our brain to function that way.

Where is all this speed leading us?

Whether the speed comes from the wants and desires created by industrialization, globalization or entertainment, the place that it is always leading us towards is called instant-gratification. Like the shoe, buy it. Hate the house, sell it. Want to shift from materialism to minimalism, chuck everything. Wish to run away from the winter, holiday in Australia. Do not want to get along with the spouse, file for a divorce. Want money, but want it now, well, rob a bank.

We are always wanting and are constantly working on making our wishes come true. In other words, we are playing the greatest character ever created by the human brain, and his name is God.

What is the problem with instant gratification?

The problem with instant gratification lies in its name. The excitement of a new shoe wears off within the first few times of wearing it. The happiness that comes with a new job is followed by the burden of fitting into the new work place. The relief that appears over the end of an abusive relationship is replaced with worry over the beginning of a new one. Anything instant is also everything short-lived.

My brother-in-law once wondered why the end result of a work is not as exciting as the process of getting the work done. The answer to this, lies in the middle. It is the act of doing something that is the most exciting part of the work. The result is merely a side effect. It is just like how neither birth nor death are as exciting as the act of how we have lived. Birth and death are like the “poof” moments of a magician’s act. It is the excitement of “what is going to happen next” that leads to our wonder at the end of the act.

Instant gratification is the “poof” moment of our act

The challenge lies in waiting for the “poof” moment to happen. The longer the wait, the more emotional the soul, and more challenged the brain. And life is all about facing challenges.

Because challenges are what make for stellar story-telling moments.

If life becomes a series of instant gratifications, then the challenge to the soul and the brain ceases to exist. We do not have a story to tell ourselves. It is only when I have to wait it out for the cab, do I have a story.

But the problem with instant gratification goes beyond story-telling moments.

It is only when I wait for the cab, will I also think about what I could do when I don’t get a cab. The greater problem with instant gratification is that the brain will not even learn how to face a challenge. As is the challenge of the current generation because their parents have never given them the opportunity to “wait for it.”

It is only when we walk that we notice the breeze whistling into our ears because our senses are constantly looking out for newer experiences. It is only when we grow slowly that we will experience the moments of growth. For at the end of a lifetime, the only thing that we have to look behind at are our experiences that make our story.

Here’s to waiting for our “poof” moments and savouring every moment of it! Here’s to walking through life instead of ru(i)nning it out! And here’s to stellar story-telling moments!


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