“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Mark Twain, adapted from Benjamin Disraeli
Today the weather report tells me that it’s 19 degrees, but feels like 15. Tomorrow, it tells me it’ll be 25 degrees, but feel like 20.
I laugh at these “statistics,” although they’re probably a more accurate depiction of the very human, immeasurable, immense and complex world in which we live that we try to so hard to corral into reasonable dimensions.
When Martha Stewart was just coming into her fame, a journalist posited that Martha was catching on because people craved order in a chaotic world. If your laundry was sorted into color-coded baskets, your hydrangeas were set at just the right angle to your boxwoods, and your hors d’oeuvre was the perfect blend of colors and shapes, then you could believe, for a moment at least, that you had control in the universe. There’s truth in the journalist’s theory.
Our society rewards control. It rewards a plan with specific outcomes – more points on the scoreboard, better standardized test scores, more billable hours – all pretty unnatural outcomes for humans because, instead of the number, it’s the “feels like” that is most human. In my brief, wondrous role as a school leader, I realized that, if you’re a woman, any “feels like” statements were interpreted as “hormonal.” Whereas, men in my school who used “feel like” statements were interpreted as “passionate.” I learned a simple lesson: men are allowed to feel; women are not.
The documentary Happy explains the research on happiness; what makes people happy are positive relationships, doing something well, helping others, and having new experiences. The research shows that external circumstances, e.g., making a lot of money, living in a big house, etc., fail to contribute to happiness. So, all of the rewarding we do, is fattening the bottom line, but not necessarily increasing our national happiness. No wonder the crazies get an assault rifle and shoot it up.
On the one hand, the “feels like” measure for weather is ridiculous. Will you feel the temperature as 10 degrees or will only those skeletal people who wear wool sweaters on the hottest day of July? And why do they only use this measure for extreme temperatures? Have you ever heard a report that said, “It’ll be 60 degrees tomorrow, but feel like 63”????
But, I can see how the “feels like” measurement has so many more applications than just the weather. It would give a truer measure to the world. Children have already caught on to this. Parent: “It’s time to do your homework.” Child: “I don’t feel like it.” There you go. Let’s face it. We’ve all used the “feels like” measurement in our heads. As in, “I’m 58, but feel like 88.” Or, on that rare, glorious day – stay away from mirrors on this one- “I’m 58, but feel like 25.” Or, “I’ve eaten a chicken, five pounds of potatoes, a loaf of bread, and a dozen cookies, but feel like eating that quart of ice cream in the freezer.” Or, saying aloud to your spouse, “That’s okay, honey. You deserve to sleep in while I get up with the five children, feed them breakfast, do the laundry, empty the dishwasher, and deliver them to eight different soccer games, three piano lessons, and buy groceries for the week” when in your head you’re thinking, “I feel like you are an ungrateful louse.”
Applied to the national and international arenas, there’s all kinds of fun ways to use this measurement. For example, the stock market: “The Dow Jones Industrial was up today to close at 10,500. But in Detroit, it feels like the year 1929.” Or, our relationship with China: “American corporations are getting rich from manufacturing in China. But, for the average Chinese citizen, it feels like Mao is still on the prowl.”
So, for a true reading of the weather, I offer this video, taken on a 19-degree day that felt like…bliss.