So there was this polar vortex recently, here in the States, that led to a meteorological frenzy. It was worse than the apocalypse itself since it was so bone-chillingly cold outside. I had contacts from around the world asking if we were okay. It used to be called “winter.” Now, I’m not big on human suffering. I hate to see anyone cold, hungry, or lonely. These are things for which theodicy itself will some day have to stand trial. But it does seem that we’ve caved in to media hype about the weather. Yes, the cold is not to be trifled with. It can kill. Winter, however, comes around every year in the temperate zones, and using our evolved brains can help us survive things like winter’s chill. Heck, our species has survived ice ages before. They just had no internet to tell them that.
One morning at Nashotah House we were scheduled to attend a lenten mediation in Milwaukee. A real winter storm was upon us—whether it was a polar vortex or not I do not know—and the temperature plummeted. The Dean at the time was undeterred. He’d hired a van to take us to Milwaukee. I awoke to the news that the air temperature, not the wind chill, was 42 below zero. For those of you who read centigrade, it crosses paths with Fahrenheit at 40 below. The weather forecasters warned that mere minutes outside could be fatal. Our Dean was no respecter of weather. We piled into a rented van whose windows frosted over as soon as they were cleared and we made our way to experience lent.
My point is, winter can get cold. A polar vortex by any other name would be so chilly. What makes the difference between a cold day and an apocalypse? The media. Now that we’re constantly online we know when the chill settles in. The hype makes it more marketable. Advertisers pay, but they want hits. By the end of the winter we’ve survived many apocalypses. I always did find it ironic when some celibate priest would snort, hitch his pants, and say he was a real man (it actually happens!), but living through winter is something we ought to be used to by now. On the way home from Milwaukee, we said evening prayer in the van so that we wouldn’t have to go outside to trudge to chapel in the midst of what may have been a polar vortex. Even real men feel the cold, I guess.