Tag Archives: beliefs

Weather and Commonality

My neighbor's Victorian painted colors are the only ones that show up in snow on snow.

My neighbor's Victorian painted colors are the only ones that show up in snow on snow.

It is alas, snowing again in Vancouver. I’m supposed to go to a friend’s for Boxing Day but may very well not make it out.

What I have noticed over this last week of weather, snowy, slushy, slippery, trudging weather, is that people have opened up. Where normally we walk down the streets minding our own business, not making eye contact or glancing briefly and away, that has changed.

I’ve passed people shovelling and shovelling and shovelling their walks. A few of us have popped out with our cameras to take pictures of the record breaking views. I’ve followed behind people stepping into foot-deep slush and water puddles, squeaking and shrieking as we slip and the wet seeps through our boots to later freeze our feet.

We’re clumsy, we’re beleaguered by snow and stuck cars, we laugh at our silliness, because we can’t curse and grumble the whole time. People have looked at each other and smiled in commiseration. In the long pre-Christmas holiday line-up I started talking with the woman behind me about how we both almost got rid of our old boots this year. And she said she was originally from New York but wants to get her maple leaf in Newfoundland (when she applies for citizenship). I was wearing my cat hat (with ears) because it’s the warmest I have. Another woman commented on that and how it seemed to suit me.

Me in cat hat on my very snow street.

Me in cat hat on my very snowy street.

In our conversation about weather the second woman said she worked for the government and they’re staging all sorts of disaster scenarios to prepare for the 2010 Olympics. We were making comments about how bad it’s gone at the airport this year. On Dec. 24th Air Canada cancelled all of its short and medium haul flights (my friends going on West Jet were luckier), and Greyhound cancelled all buses in and out of the Lower Mainland due to road conditions.

We thank the bus drivers for stopping over the three-foot banks of snow in front of the bus stops and smile at the people shovelling to ease our way. One thing the adverse weather is doing is making people much more friendly. We have a certain commonality in weather and in dealing with it. Even Christmas does not have that commonality because we come from different backgrounds and beliefs, have had good or bad Christmases.

But snow and more snow and dealing with it in a city where we don’ t normally have to, has given all of us something we can talk about, safely and freely. If it wasn’t for all the other unsavory aspects of bad weather I’d almost welcome it for the aspects of bringing out camaraderie in everyone. I have actually really liked this side effect of weather.

Photos are courtesy of my neighbor Rob.

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Conform or Die

I would say we live in a society of conformity but it may go deeper than that. Perhaps, we as human beings have always been this way. After all, we are social animals. We work and gather in groups, for safety, for economy, for interactions.

As humans formed these groups that became villages and cities, they had to get people to work together, to agree to the same rules and beliefs.We can see in the world today probably moreso even than the world of five thousand years ago, or maybe not, what happens when someone doesn’t agree with the status quo.

It can be as mild as “I don’t agree with you,” to as severe as being put to death or incarcerated for going against the norm. The Taleban kills people for not following their way. The Canadian government sways from Conservative to Liberal if people don’t think their leaders are representing their views. It’s a broad spectrum.

On a purely social level you have the cool kids, those with natural charisma (before they learn to bribe their way to the top) who attract others to them. It is often ephemeral what gives a person this elusive charisma. Sometimes it is physical looks. Who can deny the power of stars and their amazing good looks that give them millions of bucks, not always correlating with their acting ability?

Often charisma rests on personality, which can be a greater tour de force than beauty. Coupled, they can be unstoppable.  The third area that attracts cronies is that of beliefs. Political parties and religions work on this but they often team up with personality. In essence, those are the three bases of charisma: physical beauty, personality, beliefs. You can gain popularity through riches but charisma is slightly different and really the realm of beliefs fall more to popularity but can gain heights with a charismatic leader.

It’s a well-known fact that good looking people get farther and get away with more in the world. As a child I was pudgy and shy, not good combos for charisma. You don’t get shy, charismatic people. I was never one of the cool kids. No one ever flocked to me because of my beliefs, nor my riches. The cruelty of children is untempered by the later skills that we learn of double speak, backstabbing and passive aggressive tolerance. Luckily children are also more resilient to the taunts and ostracization, sort of. Sometimes we bear the scars for life.

I was picked on some, because I was easy pickings. I didn’t fight back. I was vulnerable and like sharks in bloodied waters, everyone knew. So I changed. I grew a tough shell, I made myself more outward going. It wasn’t easy, still isn’t easy. Being one of the cool kids matters less as an adult unless you’re trying to win in politics or take over the world.

We all have our social groups, and probably have some charisma. We are blends or normal people. But we can still suffer the fear of being nonconformist. I never mastered conformity and it’s caused me much grief. Try and act normal, think like everyone else, dress like them. Fit into the crowd and you won’t be singled out. Stand out too much, in the wrong, unpopular way and people won’t talk to you or associate with you. We may not be shot in our social groups for not fitting in but we may die nonetheless.

Today I don’t feel that humans are so great at being civilized. We suck at communication, yet use a variety of forms. Unfortunately, one person’s body language means something different to someone else. The same words can mean many things and silence can mean many more. If you conform, you’ll have less to worry about, until someone decides you offended them or that they dislike you for some other reason. Then you may not even know you should apologize or that you have to watch your back.

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