During winter, it sometimes snows in Germany, even in climate change-raddled 21st century. In the first weeks of January 2019, we are experiencing heavy snowfalls – a weather condition that results in a variety of effects, from the impossibility to bike to work, over flight cancellations or accidents. to snowball fights and deep powder skiing.
Weather is a phenomenon beyond the reach of human beings. It is broadly predictable but unforseeable in its details: what exactly does a 40% rain probability mean? Will we be able to play tennis? Weather is a perfect topic to start with in conversations, since it unites people: lots of fresh snow forces house owners to clear it early in the morning and finding ways of not banking it up in their neighbour‘s driveways. While many adults feel stressed since heavy snowfall forces them to change plans, get late to work, etc., most kids enjoy throwing snowballs, go sledding, or simply savour snorlakes falling on their faces.
I personally love heavy snowfall: it forces people to change their plans, to think differently, to find alternatives: work from home, skip the ride to the mall, reschedule your meetings. From neuroscience, we know that changing routine behaviours from time to time has tremendously positive effects on the human brain that is able to rewire its neurons which is called neuroplasticity, and on our mental abilities in general. However, human beings don‘t like changing their behaviour. We mostly do it when being forced to. That‘s where snowfalls come into play.
One of my favorite Zen proverbs – A snowflake never falls in the wrong place – adds another dimension – time: it combines the symbolic snow and human subjectivity, and therewith leads us to question the value of the events of our past and the judgements we tend to make about them. By changing plans, we are forced to try new ways and see where they lead us to. In most cases, that couod simply to realise that taking the subway is more efficient than using the car. Or, you realise that working from home is more efficient than being present at the office and you plan to ask your boss about the idea to agree upon one day of home office.
Then, there are are other, more subtle, characteristics of snow. A closed snow cover has a great visual effect: it lights up the night sky, and even during an otherwise grey winter day, the snow‘s glimmer adds to a more positive atmosphere. Compare that to grey-black rain-soaked roads! Additionally to the visual effect, there is an audio effect. If you live near a road with some traffic, you know – during winter – if there is a snow cover on the roads because you don‘t hear the cars, or at least they sound softened, or quilted. Since I am somewhat allergic against perpetual noise, I really appreciate the cushioning effect of snow here.
Let it snow!