I did not grow up with many memories of snow. For the first three years of my life I lived in an area where snow is common in Western Pennsylvania, but mercifully I have almost no memories of that deeply unpleasant time. By the time I remember a great deal, I lived in Central Florida, which is an area not known for its abundant snowfall. I do remember one trip up to Pennsylvania for winter vacation but from what I remember it was mostly being snowed in and having to improvise a way to enjoy the snow in the absence of having a lot of clothing fit for the snow. Improvisation appears to be a fairly consistent theme when it comes to my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the winter or other unusual conditions. As it was when I was a kid trying to improvise something approaching boots so that I could play in the snow without getting continual leg cramps, so it is now as an adult driving a brave little toaster through deep snows to get to work. I have gotten older, but my basic approach to dealing with the absurdity of life remains the same as it was since I was young. I don’t know if that is a good thing; one would hope that life would get less absurd and unreasonable and that one would have greater resources available, but sometimes all one has is grit and sheer determination to see something through.
I have blogged an unusual amount about the weather this winter . The reason for that is fairly simple; I have not seen anything remotely approaching this degree of bad weather in my admittedly short time in Oregon. Oregon is simply not an area that is well-equipped to deal with snow, and its drivers are a bunch of snowflakes who apparently lack the ability to deal with it as well. While I see plenty photos of children enjoying the snow and parents and teens celebrating or lamenting the lack of school, for those of us who work for a living and who go to work despite the weather, it is not an enjoyable experience. As one of my tasks at work is to listen to all of the excuses that people have when they call in late or absent to work, I greatly detest days like this because they mean that I am overrun with continual excuses about there being several feet of snow that are blocking people in and hearing how people can’t drive in the snow because they lack the equipment and so on. And, truth be told, when there is this much snow it is not enjoyable to drive in the Portland area, because our area is not well equipped for snow, as my readers are no doubt tired of hearing because it keeps on snowing this winter.
It is a clichè often repeated by those who wish to deny the reality of objective truth that much about what we think and believe depends on our perspective. The snow is the objective truth; it does not know nor does it particularly care what we do with it or what we think of it. We can plow it out of the roads, or drive over it, or curse it, or ball it up and throw it, or make snow angels or snowmen out of it, and it is completely indifferent to either our rapturous delight or to our invective about how it makes life more complicated and unpleasant. That is the nature of objective reality, in that it is entirely uncaring either for or against us, it simply is. To the extent that human beings are able to approximate that attitude of complete indifference to others, we approach that objectivity which is so highly valued in Eastern religions. Yet when we look at our lives or at the world around us, it is not so much that most of us wish to be indifferent towards others or certainly not that we wish the world or the people in it to be indifferent towards us, but we long for love and intimacy even if we fear it and are not very good at it. If we could make ourselves hardened against the emotional needs of those around us, we would be objective, but also objectively wicked and evil in so being.
The difference is one of expectations and potential. Snow cannot be anything other than what it is. The fact that snow does not care whether it blocks our driveway or makes it difficult to drive or encourages those with a poor work ethic to stay home is not something that can be held against snow because it has no choice in what it is. Animals we judge as having more culpability because they have some sort of brain, even if their mind is not quite as advanced as our own. When we get to the realm of people, though, we do have responsibility for our actions. We can choose what we do, and even how we choose to approach a problem. We all have our own nature, to be sure, and we have our own bent and inclination, our own default settings, but we can choose to override those or choose not to. Thus the same approach that we hold to the water or to the snow will not work when we are dealing with human beings. Nor would we want to, since we take a great deal of pride in our autonomy, in our freedom, in our ability to do what we will. It is not our power that gives us responsibility, it is our freedom. There are plenty of powerful things in this universe that have no will–the stars in the sky, the volcanoes on earth, the hurricanes and blizzards that buffet our existence. All of these can work for well or for ill, but they have no blame because they have no choice. They simply are. Nothing about human beings is that simple, and so try as we might, we cannot escape responsibility for what we do or what we fail to do, even if that is something as simple as doing our best to brave the conditions we face in life.
 See, for example: