Ode (Greek) Chorus: (loud, not shouting) Habituation! Habituation! Verse 1: Why does beauty fade over time in the eye of the beholder? What is it about the perception of a beautiful person, object, or experience that makes a sublime moment so fleeting? Chorus: (same) Habituation! Verse 2: When we repeatedly listen to a favorite song, or enjoy a sinful dessert, the experience lessens in intensity over time. With each repetition, our experience of it changes. It is possible that we may over think or intellectualize an experience which could reduce the emotional impact it may have on us. But more often, I believe familiarity and habituation play a large role in the degree to which our impressions change over time. Chorus: (slightly softer) Familiarity breeds contempt! Verse 3: When we are first seduced by the beauty of a rare experience, we want the sensations to last for as long as possible. One reason for the gradual decline of intensity may simply be our inability to contend with sustained emotions. When we become dazzled by the same experience over and over, we may easily become vulnerable to the enchantment, lessening our ability to manage the tasks of everyday living, ultimately losing connection with ourselves and others. Chorus: (soft) Seduction. Verse 4: Daydreaming, or a new romantic love interest, are common examples of situations where we can easily lose track of immediate goals. Though wholly interesting and exciting, these situations may place us in a vulnerable or even dangerous position over long periods of time. Chorus: (poco cresc.) Compulsion, Obsession, Addiction. Verse 5: Addiction is an extreme form of habituation. Addiction is dangerous precisely because the intense experience associated with its effects does not lessen with each occurrence. Addiction threatens social stability, and often survival itself.
A Collection of Writings on Nature, Science, and Art by John Holland