Friday, June 17, 2011

Hot and Cold; Hot or Cold

The other day I popped into a family grocery store.  It was middle June, and we were having an unusually chilly day—temperature in the fifties.   Unlike the winter, when I resemble a walking rummage sale (albeit a color coordinated one), I was wearing summer clothes.  Feeling cold,  I blurted to the checker, “BRRRR.  What’s with this weather?”

The young man looked at me, and said, “I love it!”  Speechless, I stared at him. “I love it”, he repeated.  “My favorite temperature is between 30 and 40.  But not snow.  I don’t like snow.” 
Knowing Mainers as I do, he is probably naming the 30’s and 40s as his T-shirt weather.  “Yea,” he continued, “I can’t take it when it gets to 60.”
As I had been silent he looked at me and said,” You probably like it hot.”

How to make a long story short!  My mind flashed back to another experience I had had in Maine, about sixteen years ago.  I had just come back for the summer from Sri Lanka, and was on the tennis court. My friend on the other side of the net, suddenly exclaimed, “OH I just can’t take this weather!”  It startled me; my mind reeled.  I came up to the net and said, in all sincerity, “Keith, tell me.  What is it for you?  Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it dry, or is it humid?”  I honestly had no idea.  For me, coming from Sri Lanka, it was chilly, and dry.  But sure enough, he was wilting under the heat and humidity.  After that experience I shook my head when I learned that Mainers were being sent to the Persian Gulf.  In full military regalia they would be more trouble than help.

So weather is relative.  As are so many other things.  Adaptability flexibility, “thinking outside the box”, etc. etc.--are important qualities to cultivate.   In my travels I have been on a personal quest for universals.  In 1991 I got a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.  In the linguistics section, we learned about Transformational Grammar, which was Noam Chomsky’s attempt to find a universal grammar to relate the world languages.   It is an underlying grammar, a concept of subject and action, more than the “surface grammar” of a particular language.  That is how I approach relativism.  Though my experience tells me that manners and art and customs, and religions vary on the surface, there is an underlying universal.  For weather, and my Mainer friend, too hot is 60 degrees.  But still there is a concept of hot and a concept of cold.  It reminded me of something I had read many years ago: “Relativism has at its core one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”  

All this in an instant.  I told the young man that while I didn’t love hot weather, I could take it.  I had lived in a country which regularly registered 110F and 90 percent humidity (Oman).  For him that was hell itself. And I walked out of the store with his words ringing in my head; “I love it between 30 and 40”.

Can a string of pearls have quartz and brass and Tibetan pearls and still be a string of pearls?
Hard to find a necklace for this blog.  How’s this one?  Pearls with a twist.

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