What is your threshold?

If I give you one dollar, you might smile. But would you consider yourself rich in a practical sense? Probably not. But what if I gave you a dollar every minute of every day for the rest of your life? The question is not if you would be rich, but which dollar it was that made you so? Was it at $5? Was it at $1,000? Or did you need to have a million before you knew you were rich? What is your wealth threshold?

What if I replace the dollar with a droplet of water, and drip it onto your forehead for every minute of every day for the rest of your life? Which droplet is the one that triggers insanity? Would just the first one make you crack? Or could your nervous system withstand a few million before beginning to crack? What is your pain threshold?

When I was a teenager, I would often hear news stories about school shootings, and the psychologists blaming violent music for these tragic events. My mother would nod along, agreeing with the easily replaceable reporters, and scold me for listening to my progressive metal. Surely this couldn’t be the case, because I hadn’t even raised a finger to anyone in school, let alone lift a finger to find a gun.

But what I’ve realized these past few days is that our nervous system is dramatically affected by external stimulus, even though we have our attention elsewhere. Our brain is a powerful organ, using a whopping 20% of our total energy every day. And while we can focus on only 7 (ish) things at one time, the rest of our brain is processing every small amount of sensory data the rest of our body throws at it. This fact has given rise to feng shui as an art form for decorating an environment pleasing to our senses, even if we are unaware of what to be pleased with.

It’s no wonder that the only word I can describe my Day 2 of no media with is ‘calm.’ Without so much auditory stimulation to process, my brain can focus its power on other things. My only guess is that if the brain is overloaded with external stimuli, our brain power is taxed, and it makes it that much harder to focus on work, or our spouse, or even digestion.

So my question for today is, what is your processing threshold? How much stimulus can your nervous system handle before it is sufficiently taxed? I suppose this can be trained, just as jugglers learn to handle many more than just three objects. But it seems to me that the amount of work that requires is something I don’t miss at all. I happen to like this feeling of calm, and while I may not swear off all media forever, I will definitely be pickier about what stimuli are allowed to affect me.