The hermit crab found another shell. The previous one wasn't so bad, but it was about time to make a change
It was something to do. It was a goal to work towards. It gave life a purpose. Always be on the lookout for upgrades. Without purpose, it would have little reason to move each day. Besides, continuous improvement meant its life was always getting incrementally better
. Or so it believed.
It found a new shell much like the previous one. It had good taste. The new one was just slightly better in all the attributes that set the previous one apart. Most importantly though, the new shell gave it a greater sense of security. Whether that was imagined or not, it didn't matter
. What was important was the day-to-day feelings associated with the new shell. If it meant more freedom from worry, more time to focus on the things it enjoyed, then that was what mattered. Those were the benefits that were immediate and noticeable.
Whether there was any statistical difference between living in the two shells, that was too difficult to measure, and it could never truly tell if there was any physical improvement. There were too many variables, and too many potential problems
each shell would have to handle, to make any rational decision possible. It would have to go by gut feel each and every day it lived in the shells it had chosen.
It was always on the lookout for something better. That had become a pattern, established since it was very young. That was its nature. It was doing what it was supposed to do, or it would not have survived. At times it was difficult to tell if any of the changes it made were doing it any good, but it couldn't stop even if it wanted to
. To do anything else would be to stop being what it was, to become another species altogether.
Maybe all that energy, spent shopping for and moving from shell to shell, could have been better spent on other things to make its life easier, but it was all habit by then. Old habits, even irrational ones, became increasingly difficult to break the more those habits became imprinted in its mind
. And so it would immediately start looking for a better shell the moment after it moved into the new one.
The search wasn't frantic as long as the old shell was not damaged. It could take its time, stop for rest and recuperation, but the search never ended. In its more idealistic moments, it imagined that the perfect shell could be possible to find, or if not perfect, it wanted to believe it could be possible to find a home that would ultimately satisfy
it. It did not realize it was only fooling itself. The search would never end for it or its siblings. They would be searching still in the weeks leading up to their deaths.
It could imagine one day getting enough out of life, and it would abandon its search, but it only understood its own desires at any given moment. It did not understand itself, nor the behaviors intrinsic to its species that they would all be doomed to repeat over and over throughout their lives. There would always be another shell around which the seaweed was greener. And that would largely be true. At least for the first few weeks
in which it moved in. But its mind never rested, never stopped. Without continuous improvement, where would its species be?
There was a reason they did what they did. Nature and millions of years had programmed its kind to do exactly that, to always seek out and find greater states of safety. And because it had few defenses besides its shell, safety was almost always on its mind. There weren't many other things truly worth upgrading anyway. It could change its location, but for better or for worse, it would always be dragging its shell along with it. And for that reason, a good shell would be one of the most important decisions it could make
. Nothing else quite compared. And as long as it continued to feel fear in any part of its life, it would need to focus on where its next shield and shelter would be coming from.
But this week would be a good week. It would be able to relax at least for a little bit before the urge would seize it again. This week it could get excited over exploring all the improvements it had just made from switching. Was it the right choice? It couldn't be sure, but it could sure that the new place helped it feel safer, at least for the time being. This week it would be able to conserve a little more energy than usual. But it knew the urge to leave would be back again eventually. To stand still, and it might as well have been dead