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Stretchy Hula Hoop of Latitude

pbernal's picture

How much latitude can you allow?

In my own words, latitude, the ability to allow yourself to immerse and dance around as far into the open field as much as you allow. Latitude, a force field as strong as your beliefs, your morals, and your drive. Latitude- as expandable and malleable as you want it to be. Latitude- what I have total control over. Throughout our experiences, there will be individuals sailing through several waves, facing different tides, and walking into different territories. As individuals, we can’t all be compatible and we see that with the character Lloyd Fuller in All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki and Elizabeth Costello in The Lives of Animals by J.M. Coetzee. They expand their latitude as far as they allow themselves to share their beliefs, but never bursting their force field by the harmful words of people who are against them. Latitude, unlike the scientific use, which gives an ideal measurement of a geographic coordinate, is the stretchy floating hula-hoop I as well as Costello and Fuller walk in.

Latitude can’t be measured. It’s like trying to measure how many tears you have cried- ridiculous. It’s not something that takes a form and turns into stone; forever keeping it’s shape until it is broken. The latitude an individual creates for one self is strong like rubber, to keep all its beliefs from being attacked, but also stretchy to allow yourself to stretch as far as you’re comfortable with in sharing what you believe in. Latitude is controlled by the tolerance one allows.

In All Over Creation, Lloyd Fuller is an elderly potato farmer in Liberty Falls. All his life he’s been devoted to growing potatoes, to have the best and sell the best to make a living out of it. He makes a living by giving life and cultivating life to potatoes. Lloyd’s neighbors and everyone around Liberty Falls respect him for how great he manages his potato farm. Once the idea and opportunity to grow bigger and faster potatoes, to genetically engineer the potato seeds comes up, Lloyd’s latitude enforces. He expands his tolerance, his latitude, to share what he believes towards genetically mutated seeds, but doesn’t allow his force field of beliefs to be flattened. He believes no one has the right to play God, to make decisions of someone’s life as if we had control over it. He clashes friendship with his neighbor, Will Quinn and with others by having different beliefs on how farming should be done. It tends to get sticky once your main source of income interferes with your morals. “He’s an icon! Totally salt of the earth. The American farmer making a lonely stand, defending his seed against the hubris and rapacious greed of the new multinational life-sciences cartel. In Idaho, no less! It’s Mr. Potato Head’s cloning around, his place of origin!” (Ozeki, 107)

In The Lives of Animals, Elizabeth Costello struggles to communicate with not only certain people in society, but also with her own family, her son. She gets targeted and attacked on her beliefs by choosing to be a vegetarian. So many people poke her latitude force field, yet she doesn’t stop fighting “I say what I mean. I am an old woman. I do not have the time any longer to say things I do not mean.” (Coetzee, 18) Her beliefs are strong like her latitude. It’s not necessarily that she wishes her spread of ideas and lectures to be productive and achieve an ultimate goal like her son questions her by saying that nothing will change anytime soon, but it’s more of embracing her morals and demonstrating how strong her latitude can be by standing and having the courage to even speak for what she believes.

Latitude encompasses my safe space. It allows a capacity for me to breathe and not feel targeted by what I believe in. My latitude, like Lloyd’s and Elizabeth’s, consists of my beliefs, the things I believe in and become a part of my identity, how everything and everyone outside my latitude observes me. In class we’ve discussed being productive in discussions, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, productive means doing or achieving a lot, working hard and receiving good results. As an individual, I must understand that not everyone will stand and believe the same things I strive for. My identity belongs to me; no one walks in my shadow or in my skin like I do. My thoughts roam in my mind due to my experiences and what I’ve observed in life. My latitude will allow as much as my tolerance, as much as I wish to give of myself to a discussion, to a lecture, to a presentation, to my way of living. It has nothing to do with productivity, but rather vulnerability.

Latitude can not be measured, only observed. In The Lives of Animals, Costello’s son asks his mom why she gives goes around giving lectures, sharing what she believes, in other words, expanding her latitude to others, if nothing will change within the next couple of years. What the son doesn’t grasp is that it’s not necessarily productivity that drives the individual to share what she is believes in but rather passion. In All Over Creation, Lloyd is conflicted to stick to his religious beliefs or follow along with the food corporations and genetically engineer potato seeds. He knows he won’t be able to compete with the quality of other food corporations and will probably end up making less money, but he stands and walks strong with beliefs and his latitude glistens for others to observe and know for what Lloyd stands for, like Geek and his friends see Lloyd’s true colors.

Within our latitude, our knowledge is a posteriori, dependent upon our sense experience. Our personal tolerance creates the strength of our latitude. Latitude can not be measured, I allow as much latitude as my thoughts and beliefs dance around in my stretchy hula hoop of safe space. 


Anne Dalke's picture



some (rather extensive!) notes from our talking today.

We reviewed the three papers you’ve written so far.

You reported liking your first paper, “about telling a part of yourself: where home is and what it meant to you,” and I asked, in return, how open that home might be, to others unlike yourself. 

Your second paper complexified your definition of home, by describing the “intertwined threads” of identity that both Shonibare and you manage, as you toggle between two heritages, and two homes. You claimed that “you can find your eco-system and adapt to anything,” that you “have a voice, and do belong, in both places”—and that you can “question them both as well.” I asked how you actually enact this belonging, this voice, here on campus, and you acknowledged that there are gaps between what you believe should be possible, and what you can actually bring to voice, in crossing the divides of class and ethnicity.

Your third paper was about “latitude,” asking how much how much we can allow ourselves to talk about, to someone who won’t listen/change their minds….your definition of “latitude”—“ an emotional barrier, a circle you build around yourself”—confused me enough that I looked up the etymology of the word, and was tickled to see that it actually has two diametrically opposed meanings: a precise (if imaginary!) measurement, a location on the globe; and “the freedom to choose” (which indicates not precision, but rather a range, a scope…). So I want to be sure, in the next paper, that you are careful about the meanings of the words you use, “translating” them, if necessary, for your audience…

I was also quite tickled to hear you describe the “arc” of the course, the various stages that it moved through; it made me so glad to see how well you “got it”!

When we talked about plans for your final paper, you said that you wanted to think some more about the importance and power of language, as it is used in The Hungry Tide. I suggested, in response, that you start w/ a series of passages from that book, which speak to the question of whether language can actually “translate” experience into words, sharing the experience of one person w/ another, and/or whether it might also create an obstacle, a barricade, between people of different experiences…

and then I suggested that you bring this question back to your own experiences on campus, speaking with people who are both like-and-different from yourself: How well does language work for you here? How does being bi-lingual work? What language do you have available for “translating” to others, and when/where/how does language fail you, as you learn to “be in both worlds”?

Looking forward to see where these questions take you—