Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Thanks Nature"

I'm sure you heard about the recent evidence for the long anticipated "Higgs Boson".
It was of course announced as the "Discovery" of "The God Particle".

To Quote the article referenced in the link above:
"Thanks, nature!" Gianotti said to laughs, giving thanks for the discovery.

Later, she told reporters that "the standard model (of physics) is not complete" but that "the dream is to find an ultimate theory that explains everything -- we are far from that."

And there you have it Nature as the Great Teacher acknowledged by one of the lead physicsts on the team that found evidence of "The God Particle".

Live Science Higgs Boson

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lazy... maybe not

I've listened to people from cooler climates bemoan the slow pace of life in the south... These days I'm hearing more people from (formerly) cooler climes complain about the heat, saying they want to stay inside, saying they are going to "do nothing". If culture had any heat dependencies... and I think it does... then perhaps *it is* the heat.... well... and the humidity.

Summer is our Winter. It is when we slow down and stay indoors.
But given the climate, we also adjust *when* we go outside. Am I lazy when I am inside with something cool by 10AM? Or smart? My outdoor work hours tend to be 5:30AM-9AM or after 7PM. Small windows, which is why I am glad for my day job... in the air conditioning.

An exerpt by C. W. Cannon below gives you more information to ponder... in the heat.

Approach to leisure is a happy habit: C.W. Cannon
Published: Friday, April 15, 2011, 10:17 AM

Louisiana and these national ranking lists. Now the state is the "most violent," according to the Institute for Economics and Peace. Last summer, the label was "lazy."

Of course, data can be spun different ways, be attached to different words.

If "lazy" means actually enjoying leisure time and not working too much, why not call Louisiana the "happiest" state? Oh, yeah, we won that one the previous year, in a study by the Centers for Disease Control.

Sadly, the most recent thorny laurel -- most "violent" -- is a less spinnable word than "lazy" or "happy." More sadly, Louisiana's long history is replete with unspinnable evidence that the violence is not a new phenomenon here.

"Lazy," though, we might be able to dodge. It depends on what it means. Certainly the word has been associated with Louisiana for a long time. "Dose Creole' is lezzy,"Aurora Nancanou says of her own people, in George Washington Cable's 1880 saga of old New Orleans, "The Grandisimmes."

Indeed, Bienville himself complained of the laziness of the settlers sent by the mother country. However, if it's true that Louisiana has an approach to work and leisure that distinguishes it from the average American state, could the earliest cultural formation of the region be a factor?

I've spent the past year searching for clues to whatever cultural residues might remain from the earliest generations of New Orleanians, residing first in France, then in Senegal. I've come across some very concrete parallels, such as Senegal's soupu kandia, a spicy seafood stew distinguished by inclusion of a vegetable they call "gumbo" (okra).

But lifestyle approaches are more difficult to generalize about. Even scientific-seeming surveys reveal highly subjective judgments upon closer inspection. As it turns out, the "lazy" ranking Bloomberg put together included time "working" (presumably at one's job, for money) and how leisure time was spent, whether in physically strenuous activities or in sedentary ones. Sedentary leisure activities covered not only watching TV, but also "thinking" and socializing.

Louisianians spent a big chunk of their time socializing, coming in at the third-most social state in the country. Most importantly, time spent "working" was very low. Maybe those bumper stickers proclaiming, "Work is for people who don't know how to fish," say it best.

The idea of challenging the pre-eminent status of work as the raison d'ĂȘtre of our identities is sacrilege for many Americans. However, one does get a very different sense of the value of work -- in perspective -- in both France and Senegal. The way the French demand leisure as a right and insist on actual legal limits to time and days worked per year is well known. Their leisure habits, too, revolve very much around unrushed meals and conversation with friends and family.

Senegal, too, approaches the idea of work differently than in the United States. It's a highly entrepreneurial culture, much more than France. Vendors of everything from phone cards to shoes and clothes energetically trudge the streets in the driven pursuit of a sale (to the great irritation of many foreigners). And there's a craftsmanly work ethic of doing the job right, from carpentry or tailoring to peeling an orange or putting the straw in a bag of cold fruit juice in just the right way.

But there's also a sense that work can't be rushed, that time working needs to be leavened with breaks for rest, family and friends, contemplation, prayer. You want the job done by 5? Maybe, incha Allah (God willing).

While this approach to the customer's demands is famously annoying to many a Westerner, it does preserve a salutary degree of autonomy to the guy on the other end of the transaction. And if he gets the job done, and done well, and makes enough money to enjoy life with friends and family, what's the problem?

It may be that Louisianians' approaches to work and leisure have roots in the first generations from Europe and Africa, but the comparison does not extend to violence. Both France and Senegal have far more peaceable societies than even the average American state can boast. Apparently, the causes of the real problem in Louisiana will have to be searched for closer to home.


C.W. Cannon is the 2010-11 Fulbright Professor of American Civilization at Universite Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal. He returns to the Loyola University English Department in the fall.