Friday, January 16, 2009


Well, it's cold here, and the rest of the country has heard about it. We've all been watching this inch across the country, starting from when it was 60 below in Nome (A young friend is the cable guy in Nome. A gentle-looking soul who is gradually learning to be tough as nails).

People in severe cold tend to wax philosophical about cold vs. heat, the trials of our ancestors, and whatever else comes to hand. You will notice that none of this wisdom is ever particularly new or gripping. The word banal comes to mind. Yet I do it myself, reflecting today on the shared experience of weather and how sensation affects conversation.

I decided we philosophise in the cold only to reassure ourselves that we can still do it. The first thing every essay about dangerous situations tells you is "stay calm." We keep running the thinking circuits in the cold as a test, making sure that if something miserable happens we will not be like those folks we read about who panicked and ran naked in circles with one snowshoe.


Anonymous said...

"sensation affects conversation" Well, at the very least it affects inspiration - as in "necessity (i.e. survival) is the mother of invention" ... when my teeth are chattering, I may not desire to converse all that much - but it does lend itself to a period of self-reflection and 'back to the basics' type thought. In a way it's very cathartic, and perhaps the heart of why a certain number of fast-trackers get the itch to do something on the very edge of dangerous - when the sensations are most heightened, and the many complexities of man-made life suddenly become less meaningful. It's a subliminal human urge to go back to where it all began, in a sense - from complex to simple, from multiplicity to unity, etc.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

TomG must not be so close to the cold - that was actually interesting.

Anonymous said...

"...we will not be like those folks we read about who panicked and ran naked in circles with one snowshoe."

AVI - What are you reading, anyway? Sounds like the Inuit version of some "men's" magazine!

But, having lived in Bangor, Maine and St. John's, Newfoundland, and worked on a long-standing project in Millinocket, I do know a few things about cold. I have noted that when my face is stone-cold frozen that it's hard to speak clearly and distinctly. And I think that is the very origin of the famous Yankee accent - cold faces. What do you think of my theory?

Donna B. said...

akafred, good theory and I'll counter it with the southern drawl being due to it being so hot all the energy just boiled away.

Boethius said...

I just heard over at Internetmonk, in Kentucky, they cancel public school because it is cold! If we did that here in NH, we would be going to school all the way through July.

I have often been told, by peers who have moved to NH from warmer states, NH people are not very friendly. I think it is because our winters are so cold. We get used to staying home and if we go out, running from heated cars to buildings. I think we hang on to the behavior, somewhat, when it warms up.

On the other hand, I have been told this is how southern Americans behave when it is very hot, running from air-conditioned cars to buildings.

Is it possible our experience dealing with the cold is more traumatic than their experience of dealing with the heat?

Anonymous said...

Having endured NE winters and TX summers,I long ago decided that the best way to endure such weather extremes was to get out in it. I do admit to suspending this viewpoint when it was 22 below zero Farenheit. Similarly, keep the house around 60 in the winter, and above 80 in the summer (that in TX). That way there is less of a shock when one goes outside.