It could top 100 degrees in the Boston area today.
The heat wave that has been systematically baking the nation has reached us. As Matthew Broderick said in Biloxi Blues, “It’s hot. It’s hot. It’s Africa hot.” Well, I lived in Africa and I lived in Texas.
Texas is hotter.
Over the years we have been in New England, Ginger and I continue to be amused when the weather people talk about a “heat wave,” the official definition being three days over ninety degrees. By that measure, Central Texas has been in a heat wave since 1957. In the early eighties, I spent the summer working on the farm of one of the families in the small country church I pastured. They hired me to haul hay. For thirty-two days the temperature was over 100. Now that’s a heat wave.
The problem is not so much the temperature but that we’re not used to it. Most homes around here are not air-conditioned, which means by late afternoon the temperature outside is the temperature inside. We have enough fans blowing to make the house sound like a small airfield, but hot air that is circulating is still hot air. So we look for cool places. Ginger and I went to the movie yesterday evening mostly because it was cool inside.
During the winter, when my folks call to say they’ve had an inch of snow and ice and the entire region has shut down, it’s our turn to smile. We live with weeks of sub-freezing weather and often weeks with snow covering the ground. We also live with snow plows that keep the streets scraped and sanded. We know what to do with cold; we’re ready for it. We aren’t prepared for the heat.
I guess it boils down to what you’re used to and what you’re prepared for. Forty degrees is cold in Waco because it’s fifty degrees below what feels like normal. Forty degrees in March around here means we pull out the shorts because it’s thirty degrees warmer than it was in February.
When I was a kid and we were on leave from Africa (the same year I got to watch the World Series), we went to Cranfills Gap, Texas, which was my father’s seminary pastorate. The family we were visiting had a boy my age. They decided to take us hunting, which is what they were used to doing. I was not. We were walking across a field when we surprised an armadillo, who jumped straight up in the air and then scurried into the underbrush. When I asked what it was, the boy said, “You ain’t never seen a ‘diller before? Where you been?”
“Africa,” I answered. I knew about lions, leopards, and hippos that he had never seen. I just didn’t know about dillers. He thought I was nuts and I thought he was a hick. We both looked confused.
Our environment affects what we experience and, therefore, the questions we learn to ask. Last summer at UCC National Synod, I picked up In The Company of Others: A Dialogical Christology by David H. Jensen. The opening sentence of his preface reads:
In order to become more faithful disciples, Christians need the insights of persons who profess distinctly different religious commitments. (x)
He continues a bit later:
In this polyglot environment, we who are Christians need others to hold us accountable to our traditions, to criticize the instances in which our thinking and acting have denigrated others, and to express appreciation for how our traditions have affirmed other ways. Christians need others not simply to become more responsible theologians, but, more profoundly, to become more authentic followers of the One from Nazareth who placed others at the center of his ministry and message. (xi-xii)
Our answers are only as good as our questions. If our questions never move us beyond, “Why is it so hard for those folks to deal with stuff that feels normal to me?” we will never come up with answers that move us beyond the province of our own minds. The weather is not the same everywhere, nor are the animals.
I think I made my point.
I don’t know — it’s getting too hot to think. Africa hot.