CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Perspective is a funny thing.
Why do we need to experience a negative situation to appreciate the good things?
You know, like when you get over the flu and you're so grateful to just feel normal again? Then that sense of awe and wonder soon fades, and you find yourself consumed again with the small stuff.
I've spent a fair amount of time in hospital rooms over the past couple of weeks, including a brief stint at the Hospice House West. While "life or death" is a phrase that tends to be bandied about, it's never so present as in these situations.
Comfort and kindness rise to the top, though, and help to fill the void. As well as our consciousness, at least for a while.
I've been on a quest to study the sustainability -- or the lack of it -- of such feelings. Over the years I've interviewed authors and speakers with a recurring question: "Why does it take a life-threatening illness or accident for us to appreciate life as we go along?" Does it have to be experiential? Do we have to hit bottom? Can't we just "get it"?
There don't seem to be any universal answers. The closest I've come is a response from a Pittsburgh psychologist, who attributed this phenomenon to homeostasis, the body's natural tendency to move back toward normalcy.
I understand the nature of contrast. We can't relate to being warm without being cold. How would we know joy if we hadn't felt sadness? And so it goes.
And I'm not so naive as to think we can stay in a place of perpetual euphoria. It's just that I'd like to move the needle a little farther toward the positive side a little more often.