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Three Upsides of Record-Shattering Arctic Frigid Temperatures

Today is perhaps the coldest day in 20 years in much of the Midwest.

Yesterday, I left Madison, Wisconsin, for a conference in St. Louis. We drove out on a lovely winter day, into the maw of a monster blizzard. We made it about halfway, stopping in Bloomington, Illinois.

Frozen light 1551592_10100468934124763_1680100710_nIt was in some ways, the perfect storm:

  • The temperatures had neared zero Fahrenheit.
  • One lane of the highway was covered with snow and impassable at points.
  • Blowing snow dropped visibility to about 50 yards much of the time.
  • Two foot drifts edged into the one remaining driving lane.
  • It was getting dark.

So we hunkered down in a hotel, carbed ourselves up this morning, and rolled out again. The sun is shining, but it is really, really cold. Lots of stores are closed due to the cold. And people around here are accustomed to some serious winter.

It’s easy to bemoan the bone-numbing cold. We can shake our heads at players’ bare arms as the Packers play the 49ers on the Frozen Tundra with the wind chill way down below zero.  And we can wring our chapped hands at all the things that could go wrong.

But I’m also thankful today.

There are a couple of good things about record-shattering arctic frigid temperatures.

Record-shattering arctic frigid temperatures remind us we are not in control. (Click to tweet this.)

Since returning to the US four years ago, Chrissy and I have noticed that lots of people here think they’re in control of everything. In part, this is human nature. But I think it’s a consequence of being the most marketing-saturated society on earth…ever. People point out problems and inconveniences and then try to sell us things that address those. And so we think we’re supposed to be able to solve every problem and control everything. Ridiculous cold is uncontrollable and thus teaches us that important lesson again.

Record-shattering arctic frigid temperatures give us a common enemy.                 (Click to tweet this.)

Everyone hates the crazy cold. In our polarized, fractious culture, it’s really unique for us to have something—anything—that we all have to face simultaneously while on the same side. No one loves wind chills of -35°F. We can agree that this is unpleasant. And this brings me to my final upside of this wicked weather.

Record-shattering arctic frigid temperatures make us better people.                 (Click to tweet this.)

I don’t mean that recognizing we are not in control makes us better people (though I think it does). Nor do I mean that somehow the blowing snow and ridiculous lows will blast away our shallowness (though that does seem likely to me). What I’m getting at here is that when we collectively face something as difficult and dangerous as the cold across the middle of the country right now, we help each other.

We are all a little bit scared of what could happen out there. We are in this together, and if we can help someone else, we hop to it.

What if we all had that same attitude all the time?

Leave a comment with your thoughts on this or other upsides to these extreme temps.