Apr 23, 2013

Weather, You Make It or Not

I sat down to write a letter to my grandmother the other evening. A mere sentence into the note, I began to be deafened by a heavy assault of hail. I had noticed the lightning and thunder some time before the heavens rained ice, so the hail didn't surprise me too much. 

I took a look at what people on Facebook were posting about the recent snowfall and ice storms occurring all over the state. The comments contained tones of both incredulity and expected resignation. People were simultaneously expressing disbelief and "it's-Minnesota-what-can-you-expect" attitudes. These responses are typical. 

These are strange social norms, the complaining and praising of the weather. It is amazing how many pleasant, yet fruitless conversations in society are based upon discussing the weather. It's a thoughtless action, much like saying "How's it going?" to someone when you really don't care what they say in return. The weather seems to be the ubiquitous awkward conversation starter as well. Don't know what to talk about in an unexpected conversation or pressure situation? 

"Well, that blue sky is awfully pretty," for starters. 

"Too bad we haven't seen the sun for a while."

"Yeah, this snow is unbelievable" and "Boy, will spring ever come?"

With other similar phrases accompanied by a shifting of weight away from the person you are speaking with, unwanted conversations are ended as quickly as possible. No progress in relationship-making is made and nothing is learned. Indeed, it's a wonder why this pointless social activity has not faded throughout the generations. 

I think a distinction can be made between this sort of conversation, and the important exchange of information needed in today's increasingly climate-turbulent world. In an area where the agriculture industry depends on maintaining the delicate balance of appropriate weather, many conversations are important in developing short- and long-term strategies to cope with the weather. 

However, I think there is a difference between these types of discussions and those based in deliberate pessimism. Overtly negative attitudes toward situations out of our control (although that's another topic in and of itself) solve nothing and don't benefit anyone's intellectual or emotional progress in the least. 

In the Facebook example, some people were having negative reactions toward the weather. Somehow, I have been developing a complete indifference toward what goes on in the meteorological world. I can't tell if this will be good for me as I get older and I often wonder if it isn't just the product of cynicism. Time will tell, and in the meantime I get to enjoy many tests of that indifference. 

I told my mother the other day that I wouldn't have been surprised had a tornado suddenly swept down out of the clouds as they were spewing snow. On Facebook, a person had expressed disbelief that there could have been snow and lightning at the same time. My thoughts: "What's new?"

I believe I have adopted the "it's-Minnesota-what-can-you-expect" attitude, except I've broadened that attitude to encompass the entire world. If someone told me there was a hurricane brewing in Lake Superior, I would be worried, but I really wouldn't be surprised. How can someone live in today's world and be surprised by what is going on with the weather? I feel like there is always another record being broken. Everything averages out, but our weather is becoming increasingly not average. 

As I was writing the letter and the hail began, I thought, "Does it normally hail this time of year?" I then realized it was April, so that seemed pretty normal. Except other areas of Minnesota nearby were getting several inches of snow and freezing rain as if it were January. So now my question is, "Does it really matter what time of year we normally receive hail?" It seems that normal is already an outdated term. 

Now, I'm hardly tolling the death knell for us humans. What I am trying to do is help myself, and maybe you as well, be more aware of how we discuss weather. Is it constructive discussion, or just pointless words being floated around to satisfy common sociality? There is no doubt that humankind has played a major role in influencing the global climate change. There are various factors contributing to the effects we see, but we are to blame. 

Statistics can be twisted to satisfy any agenda, but what is it that you see? For myself and from my limited scope, I do not see a human family that takes care of their home. Will we be negative bystanders who bemoan the weather, or will we be optimistic about the future? 

Optimism can lead us to constructively combat the effects of our mistakes in the present and provide for consistent improvement toward the future.

This post was originally published as a column for the Bluff Country Newspaper Group in the Apr. 15 issue of the Bluff Country Reader.

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