Vancouver weather is a fickle thing; a few days after most snowfalls, there are long periods of sunlight. With snow still everywhere but the major roads, particularly bright weather reflects off of literally everything. Don’t get me wrong, snow is pretty… until the reflection of the sunlight burns your eyes.
On one sunny afternoon last weekend, I was taking the worst of the sun’s glare through a train window (worse because the entire window is too bright to look at, too), and for some reason I started thinking of a video I saw in science class last year about the sun. It was probably Bill Nye or something, because there were students making bad puns carrying out ‘Try It Yourself’ experiments, one of which demonstrated how to project the sun’s image onto a piece of paper to pick out sunspots. What came to mind, specifically, was the heavy warning they gave before the experiment: never look directly at the sun, ever, because staring right at it for even a few seconds can blind you for life.
My earlier post about ‘Dead Teenager Movies’, specifically the animated short that I linked to, immediately connected with this thought in my head. Something about the absurdity of worrying about death when it was absolutely inevitable for all of us. A similar thought about the sun had come to me before, but I finally had something to tie it to. My thought is this: how can people be afraid of flying when, if we were to look up for even a couple seconds, we could be instantly and permanently blinded? Even though we’ve grown to ignore it, the sun’s presence is a constant danger hovering above our heads. Look at it and go blind; but no one really thinks that way, do they? Parents are more concerned that giving their four-year-old an umbrella will lead them to poke someone’s eye out.
On one level, it reminds me of a study in Freakonomics (actual link to the relevant text!) about the risks of swimming pools vs guns and the odds that a child will die by either of them. A child is, of course, a little less than 100x more likely to die in a backyard swimming pool than by fooling around with a gun, but parents are more hesitant about letting their child visit a friend whose parents keep a gun than a friend whose parents have a swimming pool in their backyard. That goes into the unlikely tragic death vs more likely death-by-mundane-factor issue, which doesn’t really lead much further.
But still, I wonder: how can a society that, if they were to look up for a few seconds would go blind, be so concerned about air fatalities and toddlers with umbrellas?