Disclaimer: This is a block of thoughts that is far too big to encompass in a single writing, but I have done my best to details my musings in as best a manner as I can as of this writing. Rest assured that I will delve deeper into this subject as time passes, but for now, I bid you happy reading and a good day ahead.
Hot is to cold as cold is to hot.
Now ask yourself the following question: “what qualifies any object as ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ in the first place?”
Is it the intensity of the sensation felt when your hands hold the ice cube/warm bread? If so, then what about the times when we felt heat and cold so intense that our senses went numb? Was there any difference between the two, even when the sensory organs perceiving these sensations were overwhelmed by the intensity of what was perceived?
The answer to these questions is actually no, at least for any extreme example.
What then, differentiates the two? I find it amusing to note that these definitions of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ do not hold any meaning outside of temperature or any scale that measure heat for that matter. From a human perspective, a warm sauna would invariably be hotter than a normal sunny day, but to a desert dwelling camel, the two wouldn’t be any different. What if we were to take our definitions of hot and cold onto the surface of a star? It would instantly fly out the window, if we didn’t melt first. A hypothetical living organism on Pluto might laugh at our definition of ‘cold’, and possibly shiver in terror at the thought of what could possibly happen to them when exposed to our definition of ‘hot’.
The beautiful part about this little thought experiment is that it highlights the way our mind works. An object would not register as ‘cold’ in our mind if it could not be compared to something else (literally anything else). What constitutes as ‘cold’ for me (a 20 degree celsius air-conditioned room) may pass as ‘normal’ for my friends in Edinburgh (who are unfortunately unable to fully enjoy their summer as of this writing, thanks pandemic). The same applies for different people from different parts of the world.
The scientific rationale is that the difference in temperature is the presence of a heat gradient, which from a detached, quantifiable, objective viewpoint is true. However, when the matter of experiencing both ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ comes into the the picture, it will always be distorted [think questions that ask you to rate your pain from 1 to 10 and you know what I mean]. The reality in human experience is that people experience varying degrees of felt intensity, and each perspective would be unique to the person. However, that does not prevent the expression of said experience from having overlapping/similarities, which is something that language facilitates very well. Why bother with ‘sharp, rapid intensification of warmth greater that what my current sensory appendage can safely handle, resulting in rapid numbification of said organ and leading to burns through prolonged exposure’ when ‘hot’ or ‘high temperature’ will simply do?
That being said, it all comes down to perspective. The limitations of of senses, our perceptions, and our mentally held biases (values, upbringing etc.) all contribute to this, whether we are aware of it or not. Just as hot is to cold as cold is to hot, the same applies for anything that can be measured with a scale, or that can be compared. What may be tolerable for some may not work for others, and certain conditions that may fit a certain group may not favor others.
Understandably, this way that the mind works has its ups and downs. Because of the shared perceptions and physiological reactions, we are able to take the information and create coherent rules and regulations that have ensured our safety. It has also enabled our species to foster cooperation through shared cultures and fictions that have propelled us far above even the animals that cooperate more fluidly than us, namely ants, bees and primates.
The downsides are apparent, and need two explanations.