The Poison of Comfort

Most of us are prisoners to comfort. Our lives are shaped, adjusted, and optimized to experience all sorts of pleasure. Take the common experience of taking a dump. The toilet seat is not too high or low as to elicit discomfort while sitting or squeezing. The lighting is soft and there are usually good smelling agents to mask your butt smell. The toilet paper is soft and textured for easy excavation. If you are in Japan, the toilet will even shoot water on your cheeks while playing soothing music. The removal of the poop only requires pushing a handle and sometimes no work at all with automatic flushers. After the disposal, you wash your hands in water that required no effort to gather. I love a good bathroom experience just as much as the next fricker but it made me think how we get use to all the luxuries in our life.

Being an adult has a lot of perks. Many of these perks include choice: what to eat, when to sleep, where to vacation, what we live in, who we spend time with, etc. Of course we don’t get everything we want but on a daily basis we do a good job at being comfortable. I love being able to make choices to optimize my day to day life. The problem with comfort is that we can quickly adapt and become use to our hedonism. This adaptation happens because we become accustomed to stimulus overtime. For example, the comfy bed becomes the norm, the running water becomes the norm, the after-work ice cream becomes the norm. These small comforts are great but we tend to desire more comfort stimulus overtime. That stinky hotel that you thought was the beezneez when you were 20 is now replaced with the Hilton. The shower head that cleaned you countless of times is now in the trash replaced by ShowerHead10000XSuperMax. Is it bad to increase this comfort? What is wrong about wanting to stay in a Hilton?

Inherently nothing. Who doesn’t want a shower head that mimics Niagara Falls? There is a problem though when comfort is not countered by the uncomfortable. We need contrast in our lives so that we avoid hedonic adaptation and the ever increasing desire for stimulus. Being uncomfortable is not a popular pursuit but it is so essential to a happy life. A great example of this is when the lights go out during a storm. We take for granted the comforts of electricity and in its absence we are uncomfortable. But when those lights turn on again there is a rush of euphoria that is quite pronounced. Another example would be camping. Sure, you may have a great time (or not) but everyone would agree that going home to your own bed feels like heaven. This is because the stimulus changed and we had enough contrast to forestall the adaptation process. This concept can be applied to everything. Is your sex life dull? A lot of people may go for a bigger and better sex stimulus. No need. Just take a break and let that stimulus become novel again. House to small? Most people would say get a bigger house. No need. Make it a goal to use half your house for a month. After that your brain will explode with all the available space. Use contrast to better your life, limit excess, and experience optimal happiness. Comfort, although awesome, is a drug and can be poisonous-consider this an intervention.

A Shadow of the Dead in the Concrete Wall: Hiroshima August 6th, 1945

At 8:15 AM on August 6th, 1945 the first ever atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” detonated above the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The blast ended up killing an estimated 100,000 people in the city either from direct force, indirect injuries, or radiation poisoning. In addition to the dead, over 100,000 were left injured and exposed to radiation which would wreak havoc on their life-long health. The book Hiroshima by John Hersey is a morose but real look on the effect of that fateful day for those in the city and their lives thereafter. The book is full of gruesome anecdotes about the aftermath of the bomb. One was about a group of officers who were looking towards the light created by the explosion-their faces burned instantly and the eyes melted leaving empty-bloody sockets. The light that was created from the reaction was so intense that it discolored the concrete in the city. This discoloration created the effect of preserving the shadows of certain individuals in the cement facades; shadows of people painting and riding horses at the very moment they were disintegrated. Holy cow! These facts truly scare me and make me realize how much I never wish to experience a nuclear bomb. 

The radiation sickness that resulted from “Little Boy” caused terrible scarring, infertility, cancer, malaise, decreased life span, decreased immunity, stomach pain, awful bouts of headaches, and countless other ailments. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were known as Hibakusha which literally means “explosion-affected people.” The Hibakusha were not given any health assistance by the government until 10 years after the bombings. Overall, it was not a great honor to be a Hibakusha. It was difficult to find a husband for female survivors and male survivors often were stricken with malaise that prevented them from steady work. The survivors, in a way, felt guilty for not dying because those, who did meet their demise, provided the greatest sacrifice for their country. 

The ultimate question is whether the atomic bombs were necessary and/or ethical? First off, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were major wartime manufacturing cities which were crucial for Japanese military production. The rationale by the United States was that bombing these cities was ethical because the civilians were involved in the advancement of war and hence were pseudo-military. If the atomic bomb did not work, the US would have to invade Japan which had an estimated soldier death toll of 5 to 10 million (between the Japanese and the Allies). The US also gave multiple opportunities for the Japanese to surrender-warning that complete destruction would come if they did not oblige. Furthermore, the long-term effects of radiation sickness were not well known at the time and President Truman was known to be a strong detractor of chemical warfare. The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in my opinion were the only way to psychologically kill the pride of the Japanese Empire. The Emperor would not surrender to the Allies through conventional warfare and that is why the complete threat of atomic destruction was necessary. Although I believe that the A-bomb was ethical, in this specific situation, I do disagree with war in general. War is fought by young men at the hands of old prideful politicians. I wish there were no bombs or guns. If only we used our brains and the knowledge of the past so the pursuit of power would not result in the deaths of millions of people.