A Cold Shower: Comfort in an Uncomfortable World

by | Sep 11, 2012 | Blogs

Shower by gfpeck at Flickr
Cartoon Shower by Hacklock at Flickr

Cartoon Cold Shower

I’m trying something new. Well, it’s not really new in the “never-been-tried-before” sense. It’s more like new in the “new-to-me-but-recommended-by-friends-and-proverbial-wisdom” sense, or the “I’m-in-need-of-a-change-and-don’t-I-deserve-it” sense. So here it is: I’m trying cold showers.

[Insert chastity joke here.]

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay, are we back? Good. This isn’t a celibacy thing; it’s a sweaty thing. A fat and furry, “I need more exercise and yes I do sweat a lot thank-you-very-much-for-noticing” thing. Are you with me now? I’m a sweater. A “I sweat easily and for a long time” sweater.  If I workout in the morning I’m basically sweating until lunch. Which leads to awkward apologetic explanations, of which the following are my favorites:

  • “No, it’s cool.”
  • “I just showered actually.”
  • “Oh yeah, this is just my post workout sweat; it takes a while to shut down.”
  • “Ha-ha-huh. Ahem.”
  • [Dab. Dab. Wipe.]

This has got to stop.  To avoid this awkwardness I’m putting my new, potentially uncomfortable, strategy into action.  I just have to decide which type of cold shower I want first.

I already know I’m not going in for the celibacy cold shower, but what about the “hair-care-don’t-you-dare-wash-in-warm-water” kind?  Or I could go for the “cold-rinse-to-close-the-pores” kind, I suppose. And then there’s the “I’m one of the billions of people without the privilege to shower period let alone find consistently clean water to drink and I can’t believe you’re even suggesting that we run fresh water over our bodies when millions die of waterborne diseases every year!” kind.

Woah, there. That escalated pretty quickly, didn’t it? Shockingly? Almost like a cold shower?


It’s what happened to me during a recent cold shower – the water woke me up; made me very aware of myself. All of a sudden, there was another awareness: in addition to the water there came the sudden realization of my own privilege, the shocking sense of the privileged perspective I carry with me. It felt like the cold shower was actually a gift, and that the world is not supposed to work exactly the way I want it to work. I realized how crazy it would be if the superficial things (literally1) that seem important to me (sweat or no sweat, hot water or cold) were to be imposed upon the rest of you.

The world doesn’t work the way we want it to work. The temperature can’t always be controlled to ease our systems into relation with the reality around. We’re not supposed to make everything according to our taste, our temperature, our skin. I think the only thing we’re supposed to do is to stick together – even when it makes us sweat or cry, even when it’s difficult or shocking.

When someone is cold we warm them.
When someone is hungry we feed them.
When someone is naked we clothe them.
When they’re homeless we shelter them.
When they’re lost we welcome them.
When they’re suffering we accompany them.
When they’re trapped we visit them.
When someone is lonely we stay with them.
When someone hates us we love them.

The world won’t always be comfortable; sometimes reality hits us like the sting of a cold shower. But the truth is that we belong together and I find this to be a most comforting fact. Now that I know what that cold water is doing to my heart, well, we’ll see what it does to my sweat problem. After all, as Isak Dinesen says, “The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea.”

And my initial testing seems to show that the real solution is more about time than temperature. Just relax; things will cool down and dry up; then they’ll heat up again and then, well, as Curtis Mayfield says, “we keep on keepin’ on.2

— — — — —

  1. I think this is correct usage… maybe we should check with Joe Biden?
  2. The lyrics to this song are as wonderful as any I know: “There is still a lot of love among us. / And there’s still a lot of faith and warmth and trust / when we keep on keeping on.” The full lyrics are worth it.

Brendan Busse, SJ

bbussesj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Brendan