Weather to Panic

Over the long weekend, our furnace kicked off two days in a row. This January has been chillier than some, and we’ve been sitting around with blankets on our laps waiting for the air temperature to reach a tolerable level. We keep our place cool, in any case, partly from environmental concern, and partly because we can’t afford to do it any other way. So I was interested to see an article from the Guardian that my wife forwarded to me about the weather. I’ve been interested enough in the weather to write a book about it (Weathering the Psalms—available now!) and since I stand outside every morning waiting for a frequently tardy bus, I do tend to notice when it’s cold, raining, or snowing. The article, “I don’t care what the weatherman says when it’s just hysteria,” by Martin Kettle, makes a good point. The weather used to be information on the news, now it is entertainment. We dramatize and give names to storms as if each is a miniature apocalypse. As Kettle notes, most of us have been around long enough to know how to survive a cold snap or two. But an apocalypse?

We’ve become accustomed to the controlled environment. Many of us define our “work” as sitting in front of computers all day, tapping out virtual ideas that other people will see, indoors, and we probably don’t even have to step outside to get the message delivered. The weather might make it difficult to get to work. We might lose a day of productivity. That snow that was fun as a child has become an impairment to those adults driving to work to get inside so we don’t have to be made uncomfortable any longer than is strictly necessary. Snow never makes it into the forecast, but a storm personified with a name and with destructive intent. No wonder the biblical world saw weather as a divine weapon.

That which Kettle terms “[t]he debauching of the weather” is a sign of the times. We seem to be deemed unable to process facts. We must be entertained. How many mornings have I sat worried in the dark, wondering if I’ll make it in to work or if I’ll spend a good portion of the day trapped on a bus frozen on the Parkway? How much energy do I expend trying to decide whether I should spend extra money to take the train, even though I’ve already paid for a month of bus service? Will the weather throw itself on us all and prevent us from another day’s work? In the Psalms, the response was often one of wonder and praise. These were things only the deity could do. Now, however, we are in the realm of the media meteorologist. If they don’t entertain us, we might just turn off the television or computer and go outside to check for ourselves. If only we would we might discover one of the true wonders of nature that doesn’t require comment. It might be the ability to judge for ourselves.

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