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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Prof. Balaam reflects on polar vortex

The so-called “polar vortex”––bearing down upon humanity packing high winds and that technical-sounding title for what amounts to a serious cold snap––the so-called “polar vortex” is a god-send for raising human awareness of experience. Like it hate it fear it love it, it’s a brief chance to feel the blood coursing in our veins and to wonder to what extent our human selves, comforts, expectations matter. On today’s commute, which I did on my bike, it was a great relief to be alive in such excellent bright cold weather, the  hazy dome of dazzling light overhead comparing so favorably to weeks of our sodden December, when the temperatures hovered about the high end of our normal ranges as these are low. No one hyperventilated then, though the streets, covered with refrozen snow-melt, were slicker and more dangerous.

Personally enjoying such assertive shows of material nature, I am mindful of the dangers and discomforts they present. I think first of the poor and the homeless. I certainly hope everyone will be safe. But human trouble goes forward at all hours and in all kinds of weather. Since the weather this week really is dangerously cold, I hope people will come together and help each other out. And I will seek ways to be alert to what might be needed around me. Meanwhile, I feel quite confident that the College’s remaining open is the right call. With so many human residents of campus needing to be provided for in their daily rhythms, even canceling classes and closing the college wouldn’t make a whit of difference for the many scores of staff who would need to report, no matter how inconvenient or dangerous. I’m glad to be planning a work day for tomorrow on campus along with those who are required to show up and to clock in. I don’t know the numbers of such staff, but they can’t be small. Much better, I say, to bundle up, be smart and safe, come out and enjoy the freaky wonder of it all, and stay right on track together.

Much better to use our heads and enjoy as we can the chance to feel very small and very tenuous before such stupendous material circumstances as present themselves to us this week as we cling, as we always do, to this terrestrial ball hurled through the cosmos. Unlike the Polar Vortex––which, despite its imposing title, is very nearly the Presidential Tweet of weather events, formidably upon us for only 36 hours and change––unlike it, there is no telling where the miracle of another Wednesday of voyaging aboard this most hospitable of planets will end, or what it might bring.

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