Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Insect Bites

It's mosquito season, and it seems like they've been pretty bad this year. The backs of my legs are taking the worst of it. I'm currently reading a lengthy two-part article in The New Yorker about Siberia, and the author points out that parts of Siberia have some of the worst mosquito infestation in the world.

This morning, an author named Richard Conniff wrote about insect and bug bites on -- of all places -- the Times's "happiness blog" (here) which is "a discussion about the search for contentment in its many forms — economic, emotional, physical, spiritual — and the stories of those striving to come to terms with the lives they lead."

Conniff wrotes about a guy named Justin O. Schmidt who keeps meticulous track of all the bites and stings that he gets -- and channels the experiences into something approaching happiness. Conniff says the key is that Schmidt allows himself to feel the "flow" of the being-stung-or-bitten experience:
Positive psychology types like to say that savoring the moment is a “crucial happiness skill,” and that’s what Schmidt does next: “So I pay a little attention to the type of pain it is, how long it lasts, how intense it gets.” A harvester ant, for instance, “felt like somebody was putting a knife in and twisting it.” A wasp known in the American Southwest as the “tarantula hawk” made him lie down and scream: “The good news is that by three minutes, it’s gone. If you really use your imagination you can get it to last five.”
This is great stuff!! I can barely wait to get bitten next time and experiment with Schmidt's approach. I'm definitely skeptical but it's also fun to think about things in completely different ways.

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