July 5

Waving Our Hands

July 5, 2017

Personal Growth

Years ago I had a friend who was a professor of physiology and also knew a great deal about thermodynamics. I once watched him give his wife a stern lecture about the futility of her fanning herself with a piece of cardboard while she was outside on a hot day. “Studies have proven,” he said, “that the heat generated by you moving your arm is greater than the heat dissipated by the subsequent evaporation of perspiration.” Yes, he really talked like that.

His wife was undeterred by his knowledge or his lecture, saying, “But it feels good.”

One day I carried some equipment from upstairs to an outbuilding, and from there walked to the room on the bottom floor where we film the video chats. It was quite warm and humid outside, so by the time I arrived in the room with the camera, I was already moderately sweating. I would not have cared, except that the sweat had changed the color of my shirt in places in a way that Donna found to be less than attractive for filming.

I was also physically uncomfortable from the heat, so reflexively I began to fan my face with my hand. It quickly became obvious that my hand was too small to have much effect, and that my old friend was right about the effect of fanning ourselves. I was becoming hotter and sweatier.

Donna walked over and turned on a large object labeled Wind Machine, and it generated a great deal of rapidly moving air. Soon it genuinely cooled me down without any expenditure of energy on my part.

I thought about how many times we foolishly wave our hands or a piece of cardboard—using drugs, anger, alcohol, control, and more—just because “it feels good,” when the overall effect is the opposite of what we intend. By seeking a short-term solution to our pain, we only guarantee that our pain will continue and worsen. Sometimes we need the help of others, and almost always we must forgo the use of the solution that temporarily made us feel better.

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