Normal body temperature fluctuates daily from 98.5 to 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. When you contract the flu, you will feel terrible. You’ll have a sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headache, or muscle aches, but your body temperature will also elevate way beyond its normal range, causing you to feel like you’re burning up and that you’re on the brink of death.
Fevers are triggered by chemical agents known as pyrogens, which flow in the bloodstream. Pyrogens activate special receptors in your hypothalamus that signal to your body’s immune system that is has to work overtime, and thus raise your body temperature enough to kill off hostile bacteria and hopefully eradicate the sickness. As unpleasant a fever may be, it serves a critical survival function in that it helps your body combat a potentially life-threatening infection.
So why the science lesson? Because a fever, no matter how bad it makes you feel, is an inherently good thing.
In my previous post, I introduced this idea of “good and bad” thinking—that if you incorporate perspectives that you hadn’t previously considered into your attitudes, you can begin to convert every inconvenience into an opportunity. This week’s post is about putting that idea into action so that you don’t have to feel like the inconveniences that do spring up in your life have to be treated as though they were end-of-the-world catastrophes. While practicing this strategy of thinking, that fever of yours could be treated as a welcome addition to your sick day, assuming that you drink plenty of fluids!
If you still don’t believe me, I’m going to provide three examples of objectively classifiable catastrophes, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the bombing of Hiroshima, to further demonstrate that beyond all of that large-scale destruction is an opportunity for positive change.
Disclaimer: I am in no way downplaying any of these disasters. I am merely using them to illustrate the point that, in spite of the inconceivable destruction and enormous loss of life, they still brought some good.
9/11 is thought of as profoundly devastating because it was an attack on American people and most of all, an attack on American values, or the very fabric that once made America so highly esteemed. Over 3,000 innocent people, many of which were mothers, fathers, boyfriends, and girlfriends, lost their lives while two of the most iconic towers in New York City collapsed in just 102 minutes. What further exacerbated this tragedy was a growing hatred and gross misunderstanding of the Islamic faith (Rose, 2013).
Those who were directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and lived to see the next sunrise could never truly let go of what happened to them. At the same time, many participated in what was one of the greatest coming-together occasions in all of American history, while multiple foundations were established that appropriated funds toward other causes like hurricane relief and the assisting of emergency respondents (Davis, 2013). The attacks also motivated the Federal government to upgrade security measures and conceive of the Department of Homeland Security, which has since been responsible for multiple counter-terrorist operations.
It just demonstrates that while terrorists can destroy all of the buildings they want, they can never destroy the American spirit.
Hurricane Katrina was an event of destructive proportions. The storm, with winds stretching over 50 kilometers and blowing 40 mph on average, caused the deaths of an estimated 1,833 people and a whopping $108 billion in total property damage (Zimmermann, 2015). It is ranked as the sixth strongest storm in recorded Atlantic hurricanes, and has sent the city of New Orleans into social, political, and economic disarray. Thousands of people were left without homes, stripped of all hope and a will to move on.
However, even Hurricane Katrina had positive effects. Juan Williams (2010) uses the example of former New Orleans resident Josh Levin, who wrote in a post for Slate Magazine saying “[Katrina] gave New Orleanians an unprecedented opportunity to remake a city that wasn’t working.” According to Levin, Republican Joe Cao and Democrat Mayor Mitch Landrieu used the storm as an opportunity to tackle rampant poverty, crime, and education issues, inciting major reforms that would set the city in the right direction and essentially hit the reset button. Williams also states that interestingly enough, Hurricane Katrina lifted the stigma off New Orleans’s widespread poverty and improved upon previously tense race relations.
Right now, New Orleans is still in a very tight spot, but even if it takes another 10, 50, or 100 years, I believe that someday that town will be better off than before Katrina first made landfall.
Unlike the 9/11 attacks and naturally based Katrina disaster, the bombing of Hiroshima was instigated on American prerogative in an effort to put a stop to WWII and therefore save countless lives. Harry S. Truman was faced with the hardest decision a president has ever had to make: force Japan to surrender unconditionally, or suffer hundreds of thousands more American casualties by allowing the war to continue. Finally, at 8:15 A.M. on August 6th, 1945, the decision had been made, and the United States dropped an A-bomb on the heart of Hiroshima. Most if not all people within a two-kilometer radius were instantly vaporized while the city had become leveled and shrouded in atomic fire.
Overall, around 140,000 were killed or died in the following months, either by burn damage or radiation poisoning. Yet as much of a stain on our history as Hiroshima is, it was necessary to end a war that claimed, and would continue to claim, millions of lives. In fact, the total amount of prevented casualties is roughly as high as 1,237,980, not counting for conservative estimates (Vespa, 2016).
The argument as to whether the bombing of Hiroshima was morally and ethically justifiable remains unresolved, and like other moral grey areas, there will never be a single answer that everyone agrees with. One thing is for certain: it was preferable to the alternative.
9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hiroshima are evidence of how all life is a double helix of good and bad; that all bad has to lead into good and vice versa. I’ve found this way of thinking incredibly helpful not because it promotes positive thinking, but because it promotes critical thinking. It allows you to get creative and actually use your brain to arrive at an accurate conclusion of the universe’s complicated dynamics.
Anyone can curl up in a ball and cry when the world’s about to end, but to stand up and smile in the face of imminent annihilation? That takes character.
Davis, L. (2013, September 12). 9 Ways 9/11 Inadvertently Sparked Good In The World. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/9-ways-911-inadvertently-_n_3909148.html
Rose, S. (2013, November 11). Since 9/11, Racism and Islamophobia Remain Intertwined. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/steve-rose/911-racism-islamophobia_b_3908411.html
Vespa, M. (2016, May 27). Yes, Dropping Atomic Bombs On Japan Was A Good Thing. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2016/05/27/no-america-dropping-atomic-bombs-on-japan-was-a-good-thing-n2161273
Williams, J. (2010, August 27). Even Katrina Has a Silver Lining | Fox News. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/08/27/juan-williams-katrina-brookings-new-orleans-gulf-coast-black-poverty-pew-poll.html
Zimmerman, K. A. (2015, August 27). Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html