How Quickly We Adjust, for better or worse

After the February that Massachusetts had with the snow and cold, it was nice just to be warm! Pumping gas suddenly had a refreshing quality to it. Just being able to walk to the car without your hands aching was a treat. And hiking around outdoors was nirvana.

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The funny thing I noticed though, is how quickly I get used to something. Not just the weather, but also the stimulation; no matter how much is going on, it seems to level out, and I return to my typical demeanor. Shouldn’t I have been energetic and filled with excitement for the entire cruise?

There’s a lot of pressure when you have committed time and money to a vacation. I need to have fun, I need to not waste my time, I need to make the most of it! But this can make it less enjoyable and more stressful sometimes. Sitting in a pub on the lower decks of ship suddenly becomes boring. Sitting in a pub in Massachusetts a week before was my entire plan for the night, and possibly the most exciting thing I did all week.

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But on a cruise ship, I wasn’t contrasting the pub with work or shoveling snow, I was comparing it to swimming in crystal blue waters, and scaling a rock climbing wall. This relates to an earlier post about stress levels: it always seems that no matter how great we have it, the amount of stress on us feels relatively the same. And it didn’t matter how awesome this vacation was, there were still going to be highs and lows.

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Even though the low of the vacation is still higher than a typical high in a winter week in Massachusetts, it is hard to recognize that in the moment. How quickly I forget! Two weeks ago I couldn’t imagine ever being warm again, and one week ago I couldn’t imagine ever being cold again.

Likewise, the first couple days in Florida were spent doing things like lighting a large bonfire in order to clear some brush and junk wood from my cousin’s land. Now, I just so happen to like this sort of activity, but I can’t express through words the joy and satisfaction I felt spending all day outside doing yard work. I hadn’t been outside for that long in three months, possibly longer! And when I was outside in New England, it just hurt.

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And yet a week later I had adjusted and strolled lazily around a beach in Mexico, napping in a hammock under palm trees, standing just feet away from huge crocodiles at an exhibit. How drab. Yet if I could immediately teleport back to that hammock right now, my elation would be untamable. I would probably even go swimming, even though it was only about 74 degrees, and breezey.

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It all gets back to appreciating things and making sure to enjoy each moment. I certainly never complained about the heat down there, and when I felt annoyed that it wasn’t warm enough, I had to remind myself where I came from. The psychology of it all is fascinating; you would think everyday on the cruise I would feel as alive and happy as I did burning dead wood at my cousin’s house. But it is easier said than done.

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Really, it was an awesome vacation. But again a comparison poses a problem: last year’s cruise was even better. Had this been the first cruise I ever went on, there would be nothing to rank it against, and therefore nothing to be disappointed about.

My main takeaway from this is that without effort, things call fall into dreariness. It actually takes work to have fun and enjoy yourself sometimes! But stepping back and having appreciation for the opportunities offered can always kick me back to that place of gratitude. I had an awesome vacation, and I have an awesome life, for which I am grateful everyday!

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Planet of Sound

In the center of the soundar system existed a behemoth sphere, its own gravity holding it together, referred to as the Sound. Tiny explosions of the gaseous star were relentless and loudly emitted from the Sound as waves; so loud in fact that the noise of the Sound waves reached easily to the third planet from the Sound, in the form of a hum. These explosions did not emit light, at least not enough to break free from the gravity of the star. But the sound waves penetrated the atmosphere of the third, wet planet, and the vibrations reverberated throughout the land and water. The explosions emitted noise with such intensity that the sound waves were still hot when they reached this planet.

No one knows how, but billions of years after this planet formed, life sprang from the crevices. People knew that the building blocks of life were water, and sound waves, but how it started was a mystery. People had been around for some time, though relatively short in terms of the age of the planet. They walked upright, had two legs and two arms, hands with which to feel, and a head on their shoulders. They had mouths to eat with, a nose to smell, and two big ears, that extended about two inches from the front of their face on either side and slightly above their noses.

Their ears were funnel shaped and could be focused in any direction within about 180 degrees of the direction a person was facing in order to hear what was around them. Relatively close, forward facing ears were a sign that people were trackers and predators: hunters in the old days. These ears were extremely sensitive and could pick up on the smallest noises. When the planet rotated every 24 hours and the Sound was out of hear, people would use artificial noise to listen where they were going. Their cars had head-waves to noisen up the path, so that they wouldn’t drive their cars off the roads.

By this time on the planet, science was advanced: everyone knew that sound waves and noise made everything around them hearable; the waves bounced off objects, and thusly told the ears where objects were. But so intricate were the ears that two seemingly identical surfaces could be distinguished based on their buzz. Ink of different buzzes (buzz was in fact just difference noise-wave lengths bouncing off physical objects at different frequencies) could be listened to, so that people heard words on a paper. A low frequency sound wave would show up hot like the Sound, and hum, while the quicker waves sounded cooler, like the sky or the ocean. Many thousands of years ago people managed to mimic the tiny explosions of the Sound, and created their own hum that kept them warm. At first people used hum to see where they were going, and cook their food, until more advanced methods became available.

People had light sensors on the sides of their heads; these were crude and only could distinguish general tones of light. People had developed a language to communicate; it involved emitting small bits of light from the mouth, in certain patterns. The brighter the light, usually the more excited or angry someone was. A typical greeting in one area was to emit a long stream of white light, then taper that into a short red light, finished with another quicker burst of white light. This meant hello, or good morning. When a particularly bright light was issued in a wide open space, sometimes the echo could be detected by the human light sensors, of the light bouncing off distant objects.

Crops were planted across vast fields where the Sound could easily reach unobstructed by hills or larger plants and trees. The leaves absorbed the Sound waves and audiosynthesized their nutrition when combined with water.

Sometime it proved quite convenient for one’s surroundings to be recognized by sound. People on this planet had no larynx, no vocal cords, and no voice box. In fact no detectable noise came from their mouths, only different shades and intensities of light for communication, created by a chemical reaction in the tongue. But if someone happened to find themselves in a quiet room with no sound or noise, unable to listen where they were going or hear what was around them, they could always clap their hands and emit short bursts of noise in order to catch a glimpse of their surroundings.

In fact most life on earth could hardly emit any noise at all. Only when it was very quiet would noise from walking or clashing objects show the area. In day-noise, the sound of clapping would not be heard. But there were some creatures deep in the ocean, and dwelling far underground in caves who managed to evolve with the ability to give off small bits of noise, like a hum. This helped them hunt prey attracted to the noise, or detect where the cave walls were.

There was a man in this world who had lost his hearing, but seemed to gain that much more skill in using his other senses. He could actually detect with his sensors the light he would emit from his tongue enough to artificially “hear” where he was going. The light would bounce back off of objects, and his sensors became so fine tuned that a blurry picture of the world emerged from only the light he emitted from his tongue in small bursts. He could not hear in such brilliant detail as his peers, but he could “hear” general sizes of the objects around him from the sensors collecting the light that bounced off of them.

Such a concept had never much been seen of before this man. Instead of hearing where he was going, and listening to the world, he had to try his best not to bump into things with only a bit of light bouncing back into his light sensors.

People were used to looking with their light sensors at what other people were flashing, in order to communicate. But the light detectors on the sides of this man’s head were used not simply for conversation, but for sight, for seeing the world around him, since he was unable to hear it.

What strides he had made, in a world were everyone else depended so much on hearing all that was around them.