When sleeping outdoors not too long ago, I watched a couple standing by a campfire. They looked positively satisfied with their ability to do this primal thing; make fire. I like to make fires myself, very much. The bigger the better, and sometime I had one run a roaring seven hours.
But then what? We light the wood and enjoy watching the flames. We poke around in the embers way too much and move burning logs an inch to the left, because we can. We don’t really need it to warm us anymore; we have clothing for that. We rarely use it to cook, except for an occasional marshmallow. We simply stand around, watching. We are magically attracted to the campfire — whenever one is started, it becomes the epicenter of any campsite.
We are like the domesticated cat that knows it wants to catch a mouse, does so and then sits down to stare at it. The cat feels drawn to this mouse but once it’s in possession of it, the function of it is disremembered. So the cat bats the mouse around, helplessly, for hours. Slowly, a bit of nature that used to have a function gets lost because the cat won’t eat it. Like this we stand around that fire and let the energy go to waste because we had no reason to make it in the first place.
There are clearly some instincts we can’t control, even when we no longer have a need for it.