Level Setting

Level Setting

What's the sitch with setting proper levels?

You’re watching TV with a few friends. The volume is perfectly balanced, with the crisp dialogue reaching the ears of everyone in the room, without being uncomfortably loud for any participants. Then someone in the room speaks, or violence takes place onscreen, and the volume homeostasis is upset. 

The next day, as you get into your car to run a quick errand, rain starts falling gently. Your wipers are set to an appropriate speed, clearing the drops off of the windshield just frequently enough to keep the glass lightly moistened, allowing the wipers to glide lubricated across the pane. You accelerate onto the freeway, and the drop-rate overtakes your wipers’ current sweepage, leaving the image reaching you from the outside world somewhat blurred. One stepwise increase in the frequency of wiper-rotation unfortunately is not enough to uncloud your line-of-sight, but two clicks faster is too much, causing the blades to squeal in a regular, and decidedly annoying rhythm. You reach your destination safely, though in a worse mood than when you left the house. 

Later that afternoon you’re feeling a little fatigued, likely from having to consciously use a wedge of brain to keep the levels of various sensory inputs properly balanced. You haven’t had any caffeine since your morning cup o’ joe, so you grab a venti at your local version of a nationally-franchised coffee purveyor. Three large swallows in, your esophagus is a little inflamed, and you’ve vaulted right over the cognitively ‘alert’ level into an ‘on-edge’ situation, which could rapidly progress further into some sort of a ‘paranoid fugue’ if you aren’t extremely cautious with the second half of that coffee.

A friend calls, to see if you’re down to get rowdy that night. As you have now chemically committed to a night of being hyper-vigilant, you say, “Sure brah.” He arrives, toting 24 cans of beer contained in a thin casing of cardboard, which is easily ripped open by your tense grip. As cans spill into your apartment, gravity rolling them along the gentle slope of the floor toward the north wall, you realize there are far too many beers for two gentlemen to consume in one sitting. But there isn’t much space in the refrigerator, and the beverages are already getting warm… Before you process this information and make a mature decision to store some beer for later, there are only seven scattered brews left, and you and your homey are both past the point of comfortable intoxication.To battle a splitting hangover the next day, you decide to make eggs. Knowing two has generally been enough to fill you in the past, you scramble four, eating them wrapped in a large tortilla with salsa and cheese. The already marginalized lining of your stomach disagrees with this move, and let’s you know. Battling your distended abdomen and nausea, you waddle to the couch to surf the interwebs. The bright screen is caustic to your sensitive eyes, but when dimmed, it is difficult to see the where the middle-aged men are being hit by the fireworks they are shooting at each other in the Youtube video you happened to click from your Facebook feed, posted by a high school classmate who you don’t think you’ve ever actually spoken with. You find yourself wishing there was a brightness level halfway between 7/16 and 8/16.

Tomorrow you have to return to work, where you have a decent understanding of some of the tasks you are being asked to accomplish, while the other, more complex projects still cause you mild distress. You are bored by the activities you are qualified for, uncomfortable with the activities you are working to become proficient at, and still searching for activities that strike a balance between the other two. 

You’re either getting too much sleep or too little, and there is no such thing as a thermostat setting that yields a comfortable temperature in your apartment. The minute your hair reaches the length where you think you look your best, it grows a little bit more. On the other hand, each time you shave your chin you end up taking a thin layer of skin off at the certain spots with tough angles. There was this one time when you thought you added the right amount of hot sauce to your stir-fry, but after the next bite you thought maybe there actually wasn’t quite enough spice, and following the subsequent bite you realized you had overcorrected. 

What’s the sitch with finding proper settings? Reaching the perfect levels? Toggling dials until the external environment is bearable? 

It can be tough to find the correct level, from sweetness in a cookie, to amount of time spent with a significant other, to number of blue shirts in a wardrobe. And it is a problem that ignores boundaries of genre and class, occupation and temperament. Which makes it a tough situation to analyze for our team of writers. Luckily we here at whatsthesitch.com have nothing but time on our hands to tackle life's toughest sitches. 

There are a few levels that would respond well to some sort of near-futuristic implanted bioelectronic feedback setup, for example, the TV volume scenario, or even the sweetness in a cookie. Your sense of hearing or taste would be held at a constant level of your choosing, while the external environment fluctuates as it is wont to do. If you enjoy a certain amount ofsweetness, that would be the maximum level the implant would let you experience, no matter the concentration of sucrose on your tongue. Obviously this would turn out to be a monkey’s paw situation, where we weren’t careful what we wished for, and everything smells, sounds, and tastes the same all of a sudden, leaving us to experience a circumscribed world, bound by the limits of sensation set by the corporation controlling our implants, selling higher levels of volume and brightness for cash, or some shit. 

Which sort of leads to the real conclusion here, that the environment is rarely perfect for our animalian sensory inputs, and maybe we could do some work on dealing with that. Many try to continuously modify fluctuations in sensorium that occur throughout a waking day; speaking for myself, I hold the remote the entire time I watch television, making sure the volume never gets unreasonable for my sensitive ears. Likewise, I’ll keep a hand on the windshield-wiper control knob when rain is coming down, clicking it every time I need a fresh wipe. Perhaps in an attempt to exert total control, we’ve actually lost a little bit of the very thing we were seeking. Perhaps it’s not cold outside, but rather, the temperature is lower than we’ve enjoyed in the past. Perhaps… perhaps when an article you are reading starts using the word ‘perhaps’ more than once per sentence it is time to move-on with what little time left you have on this current internet-based break from what you should actually be doing. Perhaps.

Banana Republic

Banana Republic