On Lassitude, Or, The Dog Days Of Summer

This morning when I came into work and got my initial glass of water, a coworker of mine was cleaning up some spilled coffee and commented that it was the Mondayest of Wednesdays.  I commented, in light of the fact that for over an hour yesterday we had lost power in the building and were running backup generators that did not allow the phone or internet to work, that yesterday had been the Mondayest of Tuesdays, and went to work.  During the course of the morning, though, I found myself struggling to stay awake while clicking on pivot tables in reports that no one would likely read, and wondered if I was just particularly exhausted or unmotivated, until other people around me started complaining that it was so hot, and then I realized that the reason for my lassitude was that the air conditioner was not working.  I had met one of the building’s repairmen fixing a light in the stairwell as I was walking up the stairs to my cube and chatted with him a bit, but apparently the air conditioner was not yet on the agenda.  When I commented on my lassitude as a result of the heat, some of the people around were particularly struck by the word and one executive in a nearby office promised to look it up on Google.

I meant what I said, though, and chose my word with specific reason.  After all, when one is reading or listening on tape to books dealing with cultural geography, it is common to label the people of the tropics and the subtropics as being enervated and sluggish due to the lassitude resulting from hot temperatures.  I grew up in Florida, and hardly anyone lived there in the days before air conditioning, when it was capable on a hot summer day to work hard and be economically productive because one was cool enough to do so.  In areas where air conditioners are lacking or where people are more in tune with the climate of their areas, people make changes in their lives because of the climate.  Where people attend religious services, for example, they do so in silk or cotton fabrics that breathe well and not in the suits and ties of Europeans and North Americans.  When people work, they often do their work in the morning and in the evening, leaving aside the heat of the day for resting and relaxing, taking a siesta, or something else of that nature.

Yet just as I was slow to recognize that it was my exterior environment, specifically a stuffy office without much air circulating, that was driving my lassitude and not some sort of internal lack of motivation or enthusiasm, until others around me started complaining about it, so too we are very quick to blame certain peoples as being lazy for having adapted to their surroundings.  To what extent are we supposed to cope with our environment and the contexts around us, and to what extent are we responsible for changing these contexts to reflect our own internal character.  This is a question of some importance.  To make subtropical and tropical lands, or even Oregon in the summer, suitable for intense economic productivity requires the expenditure of a lot of electricity for air conditioning given the fixed nature of work shifts in the nature of many office business [1].  Are we to be condemned for doing what is necessary for accomplishing the tasks that we have been given for others, or held responsible for enabling through our work and productivity efforts at shaping the environment we live and work in, or are we to be praised for our ingenuity in overcoming the obstacles of climate and environment to the extent that we are able to do so?

This question of lassitude, whether it is to be blamed, and if so, on who or what it is to be blamed, is a question with larger implications.  Economic productivity, whose uneven benefits nevertheless provide at least some measure of economic security to broad bases of societies, requires a certain level of caloric energy being expended in offices and factors, on computers and working with machines or tools, energy that is tiring to expend in the summer or in warm and hot climates.  All too often wealth in such regions has led to some people resting and relaxing with some mint julep or a glass of sweet tea or some other such drink while others labor under various forms of coercion and develop a negative view of the worth of labor because the profits of it are siphoned off to support corrupt elites.  Likewise, there are many people from tropical or subtropical climates who show themselves to be hard working when conditions allow—including both temperature as well as the rewards of their labor—demonstrating that environment is more often to blame than character unless people allow their environment to determine their character entirely, which would be a disaster for most of us if we allow that to be the case.

In the meantime, there is still an office I must spend a great deal of my day at without functioning air conditioning, leading me to dream of cool rooms and of sitting with a glass of sweet tea and enjoying fine company and affection even as I cope with the existing climate, and to chat with other people, including my boss, about the hammock life and the generally enervating nature of too much heat and its negative effects on productivity.  Even if I cannot do anything to change the unpleasant, swealtering atmosphere, nor am I even able to work remotely in an area that would be more pleasant, at least I can cope with the environment that I have to deal with, and be aware of the complicated interplay of responsibility between people and their environments, between their climate and their character.  The dog days of summer are upon us, but we remain free to choose how we will respond to the intolerable aspects of our lives and our existence within the constrants of what we have been given.

[1] See, for example:







About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to On Lassitude, Or, The Dog Days Of Summer

  1. Pingback: Beating The Heat | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Coffee & Tea | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Downward Dog | Edge Induced Cohesion

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