Hedgehogs’ Dilemma

(This time the credits go to Halimun Muhammad and his Facebook note.)


“Look at those cute furs–wait. What?”

Imagine yourself as a hedgehog, irresistibly cute yet so ‘edgy’ that anyone would have to think twice before getting too close because they don’t want to get hurt. You might survive without problems during the Spring, Summer, or even Fall, but when the breeze of Winter comes, you might need to consider having friends to warm up together.

The hedgehog dilemma was first coined by a German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer to portray mankind’s constraint in social relationships. In his metaphor, a group of hedgehogs are assembling to feel warmer in the Winter. However, given their thorns as ‘borders’, they should keep a certain distance so that nobody would hurt one another.


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

His main argument was that human’s need of social relationships will always clash with our basic characteristics to hurt one another. This analogy later became popular in psychology after quoted by Sigmund Freud himself. The result of these two contradicting natures is a dilemma all and every man should face. In most cases, mankind ‘deal’ with the dilemma through creating ‘safe space’ where they can interact with other men without getting hurt. ‘Politeness’ as well as ‘good manners’ are two essential tools to stay secure. There are, however, people who ‘has enough warmth in themselves’ and opt to create huger space–by completely restraining themselves from social lives. A trauma might be one good reason to commence such behavior.

The villains in most superhero stories offer us alternatives: ‘to abandon free will’, ‘to be independent’, ‘to focus on individuality’, as well as other indicators that separate one human from their ‘social-ness’. The conflicts of loneliness would then vanish beacause ‘all are one’, and ‘one is all’. This is almost similar to the action of peeling these hedgehogs’ thorns.

The question would then be, as quoted from Halimun,

Apakah perbedaan selalu menjadi duri yang menyakiti sehingga harus ada jarak atau durinya harus dicabut? Bukankah landak sebenarnya bisa melipat duri mereka sehingga bisa berkumpul sedekat mungkin tanpa saling menusuk?

(Do differences always hurt like thorns so that there should either be a space or peeled? Can’t the hedgehogs bend their thorns so that they can assemble as close as possible without being afraid of pricking one another?)

How can we, human, hold one little hedgehog in our hand and don’t bleed? Does that mean we got tougher skin? Can’t the hedgehogs use some ways to make them immune towards their own ‘edgy’  thorns?

I consider myself as one pessimistic hedgehog who prefers to not let myself wounded by creating ‘enough space’ from others, but not too wide indeed. I still consider myself friendly as I always try to be as cordial as possible. There are, however, people who are more ‘socially optimistic’ and ready to make new friends and have bonds with new people.

What do you say?


One Comment

  1. Wow, Afu. You do read a lot of philosophy books! I wouldn’t have known who Arthur Schopenhauer is had you not mentioned him here. About the level of affability, I totally agree with you. I won’t say it a ‘pessimistic’ hedgehog though, since that hedgehog still, as you argued, creates enough space for others. :-)


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