Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day

I live in Chicago, where snow days are not terribly unexpected, but much of the US is experiencing a snow day today.

These are days when it doesn't make a lot of sense to go outdoors (unless a cold wave is approaching).  Yet, we often behave as if nature is an inconvenience, a challenge to be overcome.  We fight the snow.  We fight the rain.  We fight the drought.  We fight the heat.  We fight the cold.  Indeed, there are safety concerns, but for everyone who might die because of difficulty getting to a hospital, more will die from weather-related accidents and from heart attacks triggered by shoveling snow.

As we age, there is a point where we stop fighting so much.  But we may also stop playing as much.  Younger children are drawn to snow days.  As a child, snow days are something to be looked forward to with glee.  As we become adults, they are dreaded because they interfere with work, with appointments, with our well-planned lives.  Still, there is usually a part of us that retains the child's perspective, no matter how "mature" we seem to be.  For elders, the snow day may hold less power, perhaps providing more entertainment than enjoyment.  The entertainment comes from all the younger people working so hard to tame nature, to get things done, to behave as if nature did not have the power to change our lives.  For the elders, we already know the inexorable power of nature, in the form of the passage of time.

At their best, snow days give us pause to reflect upon our busy lives.  These are times when we can take advantage of the art of non-doing.  For a day or two, we may not need to do anything in order to accomplish all that needs to be done.  To enter this taoist realm is a gift, but a bewildering gift to many of us.  We struggle to do things, to continue our habits and patterns, to do that which is expected of us.  Some of us eventually let go of those feelings and enter the world of non-doing.  Most of us don't.  

Sometimes, this realm only seems safe to enter after the day is over, everyone is fed and cared-for, duties are discharged, and we are somehow brought to the realization that our main goal in life is to survive with meaning and family and a sense of belonging.  For that moment, late in the evening, we have attained the highest of our own human nature, suddenly becoming more fully human and in tune with a natural world that truly is not within our control.  We sigh in awe.  We have stepped outside our goofy culture, outside the box of status and wealth, power and importance.  Secretly, we wonder what it would be like to have more, and longer, snow days. And, for most of us, that is good enough.  We're ready to resume the rat race in the morning.

If we think of those who are less fortunate, it can bring very uncomfortable feelings and a need to help.  If we think of the massive over-consumption of our culture and how it endangers all life on this earth, and brings so little real meaning to our lives, the dissonance can be terribly disconcerting.  But perhaps, if we take this time, this snow day (and part of tomorrow), to let all of this sink in, we may be in a better position to make personal and political decisions that will bring our lives more into balance - with our planet, our fellow humans, our natural world, and ourselves.


Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB
Adjunct Professor, School of Health Sciences
Kaplan University

Earon has degrees in public health, law and sociology.  In addition to teaching, he is currently an integrative body worker for a major hospital system in the Chicago area.  Earon has written articles on Reiki and Didgeridoo for the Center for Health and Wellness.  He is a student of many of the world's wisdom traditions and has twice traveled to China (Happy Chinese New Year!).


Behty said...

Thank you Earon, very moving... and a very good reminder. Today, as the sun was going down, my electricity (and heat) went out. The temperatures are supposed to drop to 20 below zero, the whole city has come to a stop, places I thought to go for refuge were unavailable, due to 3 feet high snow not plowed. Fortunately, the electricity and heat came on after about 3 hours, but sitting at my desk, coat gloves and scarf on - it brought me to that place again, of really basic necessity. And the gratefulness I feel still, and the wonder of the heat and light, I would never have noticed in all my busyness. So thank you, for the reminder about The Moment.

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