In the wintertime I love a piping hot shower, and in the summertime it’s got to be lukewarm or even cold, depending on particular outdoor conditions. When you play around with the faucets till you hit a certain ideal combination of the red and blue, there is nothing better. In January you almost want to scald yourself because it feels so good, and in July it is heavenly to run the water chilled as a Coke on tap.
The United States Water Fitness Association’s suggested swimming pool temperature for adults is between 85 and 89 degrees. I don’t know the numerical temperatures of my preferred summer shower water but I assume it is in that ballpark. That is to say, if the spray from the showerhead above me is only 80 degrees I will feel slightly too cool, and if it is 95 degrees I will feel slight discomfort in the opposite direction. Between 85 and 89 I am in paradise; a hair’s breadth outside that zone I experience distress. Have you ever considered what a thin line there is between delight and distress!
Two things strike me about my commonplace daily protocol. One is that the probability of an optimally pleasing shower in this material universe we inhabit is staggeringly slight. To put my happy shower routine in perspective, a thermometer inserted into the sun at its inner core would read 27 million degrees Fahrenheit, and on its surface, 3.5 million. At the other end of the spectrum, temperatures on Uranus, our coldest planet, plunge to around minus 243 to minus 370 F.
Is there a statistician in the house? Would somebody please calculate for me the chances of hitting my sweet spot of 85 to 90 degrees F in this bathtub in Glenside, among a range of possible temperatures millions degrees in breadth?
The second thing that strikes me about my shower is that God knows exactly how it feels for me when the water cascading on my skin is in the infinitely miniscule perfection range. And to know it is to have planned it. For the One who creates the rainbow out of light and atmospheric particles has surely also planned the effect of the rainbow on the eye and soul of the beholder.
To arrive at an explanation of the perfect conditions for life on planet Earth is one thing—and a very impressive thing indeed, involving knowledge of rotations, axes, the moon, and other factors beyond my ken. But when you then move from these considerations of astrophysics to the realm of human consciousness and sensuousness, have you not leapt far beyond physics to an immaterial dimension that by rights should have no truck with the categories of pleasure and emotion? Where, pray tell, is the bridge uniting material and immaterial? The mute and craggy planetary system should not be able to “know” what makes a human feel so good at the end of a long hot day.
I wonder if the science guys whose business is to shrink the miracles to formulas are quite aware that even if they crunch the numbers brilliantly, their work is only half begun.