There is something of an ebb and flow to every little bit of pattern that dominates our life. Whether it is how one makes coffee in the morning or how you say goodbye on the telephone or even on a larger scale, how people process their futures using guide posts which rarely rise above the vague or the cliché. Sometimes, we are confidant or particularly pleasant, all too happy to fuss over whether it should be five and a half scoops or six of coffee (the grind being another matter) into the top of the machine in the morning. Oddly, I often find myself having the same debate even when the necessity of coffee only barely outweighs the actual "have to make". I think of this as I am about to leave for my vacation (which will sadly be over by the time you read this), because vacations are often little more than the leaving of one set of acceptable life patterning's for another that, while less restricted by the nature of the business day, is also often trying, difficult to manage, and open to suboptimal choices made from a lack of practice and a lack of knowledge. The reason why religion deems man redeemable is that man does seem capable of improvement given enough time to practice.
I have also given much thought to my poor dog, who will be left at an over night facility for the six days I will be gone; hers is a life of complete repetition. When my wife is at work, she knows the right time to go to the door and wait for her return. She knows that our shoes mean that will be leaving the apartment, sometimes with her and often without. She knows that we give her water every morning around six a.m. and again at around 5 p.m. When I get home, she is ready to sit and watch TV with me for a half an hour before I gather enough energy to do what needs done. My poor dog will go through a series of schedules drilled into her and will come up finding them greatly changed; how is that not sadness itself?
Much of our tragedy is measured by a pattern that is altered or erased; one thinks of the old men-mostly out of another, very different time-who are thrown into another world where their wife is not there to cook or keep the check book or to lay out their clothes and, when necessary, tie their ties. Even the loss of a child is amplified during otherwise banal moments like a cartoons before bed time and the early mornings when a parent has to convert a sleepy child into something a bit more functional. Our comings and goings are sometimes organically random, like the proverbial unique snowflake; most often, they are something more concrete even if they are the result of organic processes like mere preference. A businesswoman who enjoys jogging and has to take her medication every four hours and who also has two kids that she likes to pick-up from school and drives a compact car 43 minutes each way to work has a surprising amount of her day planned out for her. A great deviation from these patterns is probably statistically predictable (in a given range), as would be smaller changes.
Our identity is tied mostly, it seems to me, in the robotic and programmable nature of our existence. Our muscle memory can outlast the drunken, diseased, or altered mind, as if the raw efficiencies that compose our lives matter more to our survival than our communication, relations, and volition. The most basic part of our brain is the public works, mean that at our core the home of our every though is something of an over complicated breathing machine; one could easily take the view that our consciousness is merely something our minds utilize to pass the time between first and last breath.
All of that to say this: the reason that vacations are so good is that they allow us to step out of our own pattern, not only to relax some over used muscles but also to exercise a few different ones. The reason why the end of a vacation is almost as good is that at its core, a clock is usually happiest when it's telling the time.
— Gregory Bearringer is a graduate student in Medieval Studies. He can be reached at email@example.com.