What's Tony Thinking

Spiritual Themes and Seattle’s Snowmageddon


Monday morning. The snow has just started again. Fourth time in four days.

(I did, by the way, make it back from Wenatchee, on the other side of the Cascades. A great day of skiing on Friday at Mission Ridge ski area.)

A snowstorm, what the news people are calling a “weather event,” is a game-changer in a variety of ways.

You might think of life and human living on a spectrum that runs from “Given” to “Chosen.” Our ancestors were much closer to the “Given” end of the spectrum. Lots of givens. You live in the town or region, on land, where you are born. A given. Weather and seasons regulate life. Givens. Crops thrive or fail in accord with those forces. Children are born. And death is a part of life. A lot of “givens.”

I recall sitting with an older woman, a new widow, days after her husband died. A visitor dropped by and in the course of the conversation said (oddly I thought), “Well, Gladys, what are we going to do about it?” As if her husband’s death were an option. She said, “Do about it? There’s nothing to do about it. You just have to rise to the occasion.”

You don’t get to choose. You respond to the given. You rise to the occasion (or not).

But the changes of modernity and of last century in particular keep pushing us in the direction of lots more choices and “Chosen.”

If you don’t like the weather, you get on a plane and go somewhere it’s different. You don’t necessarily stay in the area where you were born. You choose where you want to live. People speak of the family we are given and the family we choose. Some try to exercise choice in the children they get, through genetic interventions. “Designer children.” Choice taken to the extreme.

While neither pole on this spectrum of “given” and “chosen” is wholly right or wrong, wholly good or bad, I suspect that one of the reasons that something like a snowstorm can be sort of refreshing (at least for a while) is that we don’t have so many choices to make. It catapults us down the line toward “given.” Toward “making the best of it.”

Which many seem to be doing, “making the best of it,” that is. Enjoying unexpected family time. Parents going sledding with their kids. Baking cookies. Checking on friends and family to see how they are doing. Or making a snowman. Photo above is of a splendid snowman in Seattle’s Discovery Park.

I was out early this morning, shoveling the sidewalk in front of our building. After a while one of our neighbors joined me.

That’s another aspect of such weather and of life in the “given” dimension. It does tend to bring you together with your immediate neighbors. Perhaps you come together around a job like shoveling snow or putting chains on a car, or maybe you just socialize with the folks who are nearby because travel isn’t an option.

It looked like a lot of people were meeting their neighbors on the various hills around Seattle where kids (and adults ) are sledding.

Most of all, we all have this weather, with its beauty and its challenges, in common. It’s a “shared experience.”

I remember once hearing a church growth guru saying that growing churches need shared experiences to keep them together. He said, in that respect, church life is like a marriage.

He then said in a droll tone that he and his “wife have had five shared experiences, and their names are . . .” And he rattled off the names of their five kids. It got a laugh.

If we are more to the “chosen” side of things and less to the “given” in contemporary society, we also don’t have as much in the way of shared experiences in our high tech, affluent, choice-infused culture. I expect that’s one of the reasons for the popularity of pro and college sports. They are a shared experience in a society where there aren’t that many.

So a snow storm, even with the challenges, can be kind of refreshing and fun. It is something we share. More than that, we need each other just a little bit more than we ordinarily do.



Categories: Uncategorized