NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 27, 2013

Drowning in a sea of choices

With our national Independence Day having been properly celebrated with flag, fireworks and family cookout, I now find myself thinking about our personal independence, 2013.

Unfortunately, it’s become rather self-evident that while, sure, we’re created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, we Americans also seem to have assumed once-alien rights to a Comfortable yet Distracted Life, the Liberty to get bogged down in hundreds of choices and the pursuit of novelty.

Two things were bothering me during last week’s heat wave. One, I was certain that if the electricity failed, I was going to die. What would I do if there was no fan in my bedroom window or air conditioner in the living room protecting the fish in the aquarium?

My family, visiting from a dry climate, appreciated that we could gather in that one room to cool off, though my son said my fish are tropical, so what do they care how hot it gets? Well, it seems to me that at some point, even tropical fish can be cooked. There is a similar point about humans having evolved near the equator, which may or may not have been humid at the time.

People do live in the tropics, though. The closest I’ve come was June ‘67 in the Florida Panhandle, in a mobile home, no air conditioning, gasping for air the way a fish would gasp for water were he removed from it. The humidity was so thick that it seemed one should be able to float.

Western Pennsylvania isn’t considered tropical, but I think there was global warming during my childhood. My friends and I played tennis and softball in the mornings but headed home in the midday sun to have tournaments of board games in the cool basement. I don’t remember my house having fans, never mind air conditioning, though there was a dehumidifier. No one seemed to complain much.

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