Previously in this series: Dinnertimes in order of moral laxity.
Permissable for brief bursts in extreme circumstances, for example upon arriving home after forgetting to leave the windows open on a summer day so the entire living room has a whole pent-up afternoon’s worth of stale sun-heat that needs to be ironed out before you can even imagine doing the dishes. Think of it like one of those old-fashioned skin-care rules, like how your grandmother recommends ending a shower with a few seconds of ice-cold water to brace your pores. It’s not the same as letting the shower run cold the entire time – you’ve still got plenty of comfort remaining to you – but it’s invigorating, ennobling, opens up the sinuses and the heart to new possibilities. A temperature you could finally solve a murder mystery by.
Unnecessary. Fit perhaps for stern women and men who live alone and combat viruses or study electrons, but not for the likes of you. It’s not a mark against you, mind; you shouldn’t force yourself to work up to such a temperature any more than you should feel guilty for not inventing the stratoscope or being Copernicus. Copernicus was Copernicus, and no one holds it against you for not being Copernicus first.
An interesting, complicated temperature. Not for everyday use, but perhaps a soothing background for profound emotional work like consolidating grief or getting one of those really painful massages that promise to only start feeling good a day or two afterwards.
A touch of reserve, even austerity. You eat small, simple meals, usually of herring and rye, and sleep lightly if at all. You are not opposed to pleasure, but you parcel it out with prudence and careful husbanding.
At this temperature, every home becomes a church and all words a prayer and a love-offering to a thoughtful God. A temperature that consecrates even the simplest and most humble of actions: “As Brother Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others. More strikingly, his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was edifying with such a sweet and calm devotion appearing that he could not but affect the beholders.
It was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquillity of spirit. ‘The time of business,’ said he, ‘does not with me differ from the time of prayer. In the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Supper.’”
Perfectly reasonable. Fit for all purposes – strengthens a failing constitution, cheers a troubled spirit, soothes the jangled nerves, fills the heart with goodwill.
A compromise for cowards. The equivalent of lighting a cigarette when one has promised a good woman in one’s letters to quit the nasty habit forever, smoking it until one is sick, then lying to her. A failure of decency, of nerve, of backbone, of resolution, and one that gives the sinner no pleasure in committing the offense, thereby being damnable twice over.
Scarcely bearable, particularly for sleep; useful for jolting the house into a baseline of comfort during an ice storm, perhaps, but surely never intended for extended use. More long-range studies are needed if scientists are ever to offer an official judgment on the salutary effects of 70°on the human body over a period of years. Possible side effects include impatience, suspicion, paranoia, fitful sheet-kicking, colic, lovers’ quarrels, bed-humidity, and moral impairment.
An act of aggression, to drive someone you no longer cherish out-of-doors. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, etc.
Useful for rehearsing a Tennessee Williams’ play if one’s cast seems unable to really find their characters, staring murderously at a fly on the wall, detoxing, planning a heist, arguing with a sequestered jury, having 1950s-era-zeitgeist-collapsing passionate sex, being a detective, etc.
I can't divulge information about that customer's secret, illegal account. Oh — I shouldn't have said he was a customer. Oh — I shouldn't have said it was a secret. Oh — I certainly shouldn't have said it was illegal. Ah, it's too hot today.
Surely higher than this no human thermostat is prepared to go. At this temperature, nuclear submarines dive deeper in search of peace and cool, dark water; alarm bells sound, stern men and women whip off their spectacles and cluster around their mimeograph readouts and make inarticulate gestures of concern and dismay; deer leap from high precipices to avoid the coming storm; birds fly abruptly out to sea, abandoning human habitations; cats whimper and slink under the house; laundry melts; staircases and banisters droop; clocks stop; clouds and children gather darkly on the horizon. You are running out of the final moments of grace. Turn back, and descend.