Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Day 2014

Thanks to the Knoxville News Sentinel photographer who took this picture of my church in Tuesday's snowstorm! Perhaps it wasn't quite a blizzard by the standard definition, but it was certainly more snow that had been expected, and it practically paralyzed the town. So I stayed home all day yesterday, the best (and certainly safest) place for me to be. Sure, there were things I had planned to do that day, but they can wait, which is actually true of many things in life. The whole experience reminded me a bit of the two severe snowstorms I experienced in Italy two years ago. Writing in Rome on February 3, 2012, I posted on this blog: I have always loved snow, which I frankly consider one of the most beautiful of God’s creations. I hate driving in snow (but then, of course, I hate driving, period!) The fact that snow impedes us from carrying out some of our ordinary activities may be a good reminder that winter was intended to slow us down and stop some of those ordinary activities. It’s not winter’s fault if our modern, industrialized economy needs to continue at the same consistently frantic pace all year round. Winter is just being winter!
Of course, for so many of us the expectation is that we will keep on going, keep on doing what we would have been doing ordinarily - and for most people, of course, that means driving, one of the major sources of snow-related danger. So I really appreciate the local officials who closed down not just schools but most government offices. Back when people lived more in harmony with the rhythm of the seasons, it was a lot easier to slow down and even to stop. Things naturally slowed down during winter - one reason it was possible to have a 12-day feast at Christmas! But that's all just part of the world we once had but have long since lost. And there is little to be done about it.

Of course, I grew up in a city, and there we did do a lot more of our normal activity even when it snowed. Certainly closing school because of snow (while it did happen occasionally) was still the exception. On the other hand, most of us walked to school. So the dangers associated with driving were minimal. In most places, where people are slaves to their cars, schools really do need to close when it snows, and it is good for everyone that they do so. (Students probably would benefit from more school rather than less, but that's another matter and calls for other solutions.)

Certainly one thing we could all benefit from would be to try to get over some of our reflexive anger at the weather's impact and our almost automatic tendency to blame public officials for not being able to undo the weather immediately in order to guarantee uninterrupted continuance of our ordinary routines and personal plans. Even in today's modern cities, nature can still trump our modern priorities. That's just something we need to learn to accept (especially as climate change probably means more big storms of all sorts down the road). Public officials need to be on the ball, especially as regards public safety. And part of public safety increasingly involves getting people to slow down and even stop.

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