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How do you stand it?” is a comment I frequently receive when I tell people I don’t have air conditioning in my apartment. In this era of air conditioned buses, trains, cars, offices, movies, work places, universities, and restaurants there is no doubt that I am living an anomalous lifestyle regarding the temperature of my personal environment.

The view that my lifestyle is an anomaly is a relative one, which I will come back to.

The human body is designed to cope with and adjust to environmental variations. For instance, in springtime when the outdoor temperature reaches 50 degrees people will consider the weather nice and warm and start wearing shorts and tee shirts. In the fall when the temperature drops to 50 degrees people will consider the weather cold and start wearing sweaters. These are two different reactions to the same temperature and are caused by the body acclimating itself to the cold of winter or the heat of summer.

The speed at which the body adjusts can be rapid, for instance on a two week business trip to the upper mid-west I experienced temperatures of 11 below zero in Wisconsin Rapids, 21 below in Wausau, 11 below in Toledo, and 19 below in Cleveland; upon my return to New York City the temperature was 25 degrees and I went out wearing just a shirt and suit jacket—it was the hottest weather I had experienced in 14 days and  my body had adjusted to the cold weather.

Our bodies do considerable work in adjusting to temperature variations, and we instinctively aid the body by adjusting the clothing we wear, the foods that we eat and the activities that we engage in.

However, the un-natural lifestyle of living in an environmentally controlled cube makes it increasingly difficult for the body to adapt and causes confusion within it. Sleeping in an air conditioned apartment, going out in the hot air in the morning, riding on an air conditioned bus, going out in the hot air to the place of employment, working in an air conditioned office, going out to lunch or shopping in the hot air, returning to the air conditioned office, returning home in and out of air conditioning, confuses the body as it is subjected to a wide range of temperatures in the course of the day.

Some people have their bedroom temperatures set at 68 degrees in the summer and 80 degrees in the winter; settings that are the reverse of what would help the body adapt to the prevailing climatic conditions.

In hot temperatures the blood vessels dilate, salt concentration in the perspiration decreases, and the ability to perspire increases, as the body adjusts to hot weather. Have you noticed that your body seems puffy in the hot weather and denser in the cold weather? That’s an example of your body adjusting to environmental temperature changes.

A healthy body can adjust to extreme heat. In my childhood I lived on the top floor of an apartment without air conditioning or even fans, and experienced one of the most severe heat waves recorded in New York City. As a Cadet-midshipman on a merchant ship sailing to the west coast of South America, I crossed the equator many times and the temperature in the engine room was 120 degrees—we worked in those temperatures. As a naval Officer on a destroyer training in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in August the ocean temperature was 95 degrees; there was nothing on or in the ship that was below 100 degrees. We conducted operations in those conditions for six weeks.

In all of the conditions described in the above paragraph I am not aware of anyone—young or old—suffering from heat prostration. Our bodies acclimated themselves to the temperature conditions of their environment and the people adjusted their lifestyle to be in harmony with their bodies.

Today people have become weak, increasing numbers can no longer endure the elements, and in times of extreme temperatures they are locked in to the confines of the cubes in which they associate. They have become dependent upon man made environments instead of being in harmony with the natural environment. They have become prone to respiratory diseases, frequent occurrences of the common cold, and require flu shots to get through the winter.

Am I the anomaly for living in harmony with nature and having a healthy and strong body, or are those who can no longer endure much time out of the temperature controlled cubes the anomaly?

I am not suggesting that one grit their teeth and ride out a heat wave; on the contrary, there are many things one can do to adapt to the weather. Eat lighter, have cooler meals such as salads and in season fruits, keep the shades down during the day, keep the lights low at night, maintain a calm demeanor, and walk don’t run. Air conditioning should be used less and set at levels closer to the prevailing outdoor conditions. The words from Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,” typify the Western psyche’s nature of not being attuned to the environment. Those words were written more than a century ago, and apply even more to modern man.

There are but two options and one choice in how we live in this world. We either adapt to the world that god created by living in harmony with Mother Nature, or we adapt to the world that man has made with its resultant disharmony and disease. Choosing the second course is the true anomaly of modern society.


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