The Price of Arrogance

A funny thing happened the other day between participating in a local blood drive and going to bed later that evening.

I passed out.

Well, not completely.  What happened was, I was on my way from the bathroom on the second floor of my apartment to my bedroom on the third floor, and about halfway up the stairs I grew dizzy and lightheaded.  By the time I reached the door to my room I could no longer stand.

Managing not to fully lose consciousness, I fell to the hardwood floor as gracefully as I could and, on all fours, more or less clawed my way to my bed, hoping this rather alarming discomfort would pass, as it eventually did.

There was no mystery as to why this near-fainting experience occurred.  At every turn, the American Red Cross recommends drinking copious amounts of water both before and after donating a pint of one’s blood, cautioning that failure to do so could very easily result in lightheadedness, fainting or worse.

Silly, dumb goober that I am, I made the cavalier decision to consume barely any water at all in the hours surrounding my donation, opting instead for caffeine and whiskey, and voila!

I have said (and still do) that there is nothing so boring or irritating as when certain people behave with perfect predictability—a Catholic priest banging on about the evils of homosexuality, say, or the head of the NRA saying the solution to gun violence in schools is to put more guns in schools.

However, my antipathy toward predictability in human beings does not extend to predictability in the broader universe.  In point of fact, exactly the reverse is true, even when it comes at my own expense.

Nothing so delights and reassures me, per example, than when I ferociously gobble my way across the dessert table at Thanksgiving, and proceed to spend the evening in the gentlemen’s quarters, hunched over in agony, trying to keep everything down but suspecting it would be just as well if such an effort failed.

It is essential that events unfold in this manner, because it reminds us that the world is just.  That we cannot escape the consequences of our actions and would do ourselves a service to stop thinking that we can.

In its way, it is a check on our own arrogance.  By skipping the “drink lots of water” part of the blood-giving process, I thought I could outsmart the Red Cross and the basic science in which it puts its faith, and I was proved wrong, suffering the exact side effects they said I would.  Serves me right.

It is humbling to learn we do not have full control over our bodies and lives—that the laws of biology and physics cannot be suspended in our favor.  That stuffing inordinate amounts of food into our mouths will, like clockwork, induce our systems to rebel.  It is a disconcerting fact for a control freak like me, but a necessary one.  And quite useful, as well.

For one thing, it serves as a mechanism for self-correction.  If holiday bingeing didn’t yield holiday indigestion, what would stop us from doing it all year round?  Manners and social conventions are well and good, but avoidance of physical pain gets right to the point.

I’m glad that the universe functions in such an orderly and reliable fashion, in no small part because of the way it keeps us on our best behavior when our base instincts lead us astray.

It reminds us, finally, that while faith in the supernatural is problematic, faith in people is often a very worthy investment, indeed.  In particular, the faith that a person trained in a particular field probably knows more about it than you do, and whose counsel is therefore worth taking to heart, even (or especially) when it requires swallowing one’s pride more thoroughly than to which one is normally accustomed.

One would be well-advised to be well-advised.


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