Nick Ang

Adapt and forget

sapling Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

The air conditioner in my office is really loud but I just realised this: I hadn’t noticed it at all!

Today when the air conditioner stopped suddenly, the office felt almost pin-drop silent, except I could still hear the ringing in my ears. The machine had been bellowing like a Ferrari - unnecessarily loud, but without the sexy to make it at least slightly palatable.

While my damaged ears were still ringing, I scribbled this in my notebook: we adapt and forget that we adapted.

Was I not paying enough attention? Was I not mindful enough and really should have noticed the machine blaring at me (and my co-workers) day in, day out? Or is this normal, because that’s what adaptation is supposed to do for us?

This little situation reminds me of a much bigger, much more important but similar phenomenon that occurs in our lives. Us adapting to bad and good things in our lives.

What’s so bad about adapting to bad things? Yes, it strengthens and enables us to cope with difficult times. But soon enough, we become so strong, so able to deal with said bad thing that the it fades into the background. Every time it comes up, our body and mind passes it to some background process to deal with it. We’re not even aware of it anymore, like the ear-damaging roar of the air conditioner in my office.

It’s funny, because programmers have a great name for a process that runs in the background of the operating system outside of the consciousness of its users. We call it a daemon. And it’s really pronounced “demon”, by the way.

Adapting to good things makes us less capable of appreciating them. Similarly, our body and mind chucks them to the background. We lose gratitude.

What can we do about this adapt and forget conundrum?

The best antidote that I know personally (so far) is travel. I think the effect would be equivalent to turning off the power on all the appliances in your life, including but not limited to the noisy air conditioner. Mindfulness might come in second.

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