You Could Be Running Up That Hill, Or, The Lament Of The Free Radical

From time to time I have tried to conceive of my own self-understanding of my own psyche in the form of terrain [1].  To give a general summary of my own thoughts about the geography of my own mind, without some of the more terrifying details, I conceive of there being basically two main cities inside of me.  One is a friendly port city that is open to the outside world, where there is commerce and traffic.  The other is a city in a deep mountain valley, closed off to the outside world and extremely inaccessible.  This would not normally be an issue, except it is this city which is the capital city.  There are many things you can do in a friendly port city, but there are limits to what can be done in the absence of the ministries of government and the organs of authority, and sometimes people do not merely want pleasant commerce but to make treaties and engage in intergovernmental meetings, and that requires a difficult travel through ruins and the sites of bloody massacres, malarial swamps and trackless wilderness until one reaches the rock fortress of my heart.

This is not an entirely unknown phenomenon in our own world.  The city of Petra is famous for being carved out of rock and being a place of tourism for adventuresome souls who want to see the ancient ruins of the security-minded Nabatean Arabs.  The nation of Ecuador has a longstanding cultural divide between the friendly port city of Guayaquil and the interior mountain capital of Quito, a divide not unlike my own.  Some nations, like Andorra, are made up entirely of remote mountain valleys whose remoteness is at least part of the reason why the nations have endured to this day.  Other nations, like Singapore, are made up entirely of port cities, friendly or not.  My own tormented geography is not entirely foreign in our own world, which is at least a bit of a reminder of the sort of tormented geography that is present within our world.  The world’s commerce travels from port to port along the course of the oceans of our blue planet, but there is still a reason in the face of the world’s insecurity for remote mountain fastnesses.  Sometimes, in the case of particularly complicated people or peoples, there is a desire for both refuge and security as well as openness and sociability, despite the tensions involved.


One of the more interesting aspects of chemistry is the potential curve that exists when it comes to chemical bonds.  The above drawing, taken from an online text [2], gives a glimpse of the potential energies involved in chemical reactions.  Our own chemistry with others an be viewed in a similar fashion.  Two people have a certain degree of potential energy–we call it chemistry–and find a more relaxed state when they are bonded together.  If that is all there was, it would not be a particularly difficult matter to form bonds with others.  Free radicals, for example, are known for their destructiveness precisely because they are so intent forming bonds that they disrupt the healthy existing bonds of other atoms.  We might think the same thing about passionate homewreckers who cannot bear to be alone and are less than restrained about who they bond with.  To bond easily is not an unmixed good.  Like most aspects of life, there are trade-offs to deal with.

What makes some people bond more easily with others and makes some people find bonding rather difficult?  The answer is in the hill of potential energy, which has two different heights.  The delta H is what we would take as the longing for connection that exists.  The larger this height between the energy state of isolated people and their more relaxed state together in bonds, the greater the longing for connection that exists.  Some people are more or less calm people who have little inclination to bond with others because they are generally satisfied with how things are by themselves.  Others are so extremely agitated as solitary beings that they find it an intolerable state.  We find this in the natural world as well as the human world–some people are like Aliki metals or halogens which react with extreme heat in order to lower their potential states, and other people are like noble gases keeping aloof from the romance going on all around them.  Again, none of this is particularly difficult to understand.

There is another height that must be considered, though, and it is this hill which tends to create the gap between longing and experience.  The activation energy is how much energy and effort must be expended to get two atoms together.  Again, this is something we can understand well in our own lives.  There are plenty of occasions where someone would be well-suited to bonding, and certainly has a longing to do so, but simply cannot climb over that hill to where the bonding can occur.  I have tended to spend a great deal of my life on that hill.  Until one has put in the activation energy, one cannot get to the transition state that allows a reaction to occur, and for a variety of reasons that hill is a particularly large one for me.  In chemistry there are catalysts which lower that hill and make it easier for reactions to happen in a timely fashion, but for whatever reason those catalysts have generally been absent in my own life when it has come to my own bonding with others.  The results are rather predictable, specifically that I am someone who one would tend to assume would have a lot more bonds than I do.  We are not as good at understanding the reactions of people as we are at understanding chemical reactions, but I suppose we could get a lot better.  Some people just naturally have a more positive covfefe than others do, I suppose.

[1] See, for example:

[2]  Accessed June 1, 2017.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to You Could Be Running Up That Hill, Or, The Lament Of The Free Radical

  1. Pingback: Privileges | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Zones Of Disaffection | Edge Induced Cohesion

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