I suppose those of us who live in the warmer climes shouldn’t complain too much about the cold - except cold can be relative. I find that I have a very difficult time functioning when the temperature drops. That’s probably because of my condition. I’m affected by cold weather - and I’m talking forties or even fifties fahrenheit - more, much more than the people around me.
It wasn’t always this way. I grew up in cold weather, with snow and temperatures in the teens. I don’t like the cold, but I could function in it. Now, it goes through me. I’m sure the tumor and my body’s lower resistance has a lot to do with it.
Still, there’s a lesson everywhere, and cold - and warm - are wonderful metaphors for a lot of things. As an aside, there’s the cliche that “everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” Kind of strange, since there’s little we can do about the weather, at least immediately. (Yes, we can reduce our personal and global carbon footprint and do something about climate change/global warming, but those who spout the cliche aren’t referring to science. They’re referring to our immediate reaction to weather that interferes with our plans - whether that be rain or sun.)
I suspect that the cliche is a way of saying we’re not in control, but even that can be suspect. After all, we do something about the weather - we react to it. We build houses with insulation (or not). We put on warm clothes, jackets, gloves, etc.; we bring umbrellas. So we’re doing something about the weather all the time.
But back to the metaphors. “Cold” is a double-sided metaphor. There’s “cold-hearted” and “cool-headed.” “Cold” as a positive metaphor is associated with calculation, logic, being rational. “Cold” as a negative metaphor is associated with indifference, lack of feeling or sympathy, even cruelty. One who is cold in this sense doesn’t care.
(Of course, it’s possible to care too much, to be too passionate, to overheat - at least about some things. That’s when we need a “cooling off” period, to restore a balance. But not all passion is in need of cooling off. Sometimes, our enthusiasm should not be tempered. Sometimes, our energy should be all in. For righteous causes - those that conform to the Divine commandments (mitzvos). For relationships, with family, friends, G-d.)
Chassidic philosophy talks about this metaphor a lot, particularly in connection with the holiday of Purim, which is this week. (On Purim, among other mitzvos such as giving tzedekah/charity, the book of Esther is read in the synagogue.) The underlying battle of the Puriim story - of the book of Esther - is the struggle between indifference, or even the perfunctory, and the enthusiastic, the energetic.
When it comes to doing the right thing, we all have a spot of coldness. It’s a balancing act between the demands on our time and energy. That extra minute, that extra dollar, that extra effort - sometimes giving seems to be the “warm” thing to do, a display of our involvement and caring. And it may well be. But it may also distract us from the next warm thing, the place where we should be invested at this point.
It’s a constant struggle, because the cold - the negative cold - in our hearts is insidious. It may be a small snowflake, but that may be enough to chill us, in a number of different ways. We have to be constantly on guard against self-deception - another form of “being cold.”
So as I deal with the physical effects of being cold - even with the extra blankets or sweaters, I’m also well aware of the psychological effects of feeling cold - out of sync, disconnected, sometimes wrestling with the “what do I do now?” question. We all go through this at various points, even if we mask the confrontation with busyness - necessary things, perhaps, but busyness nevertheless.
What’s the answer then? What’s the solution? Engage, find the balance points - and then, get warmed up, enthusiastic, passionate about the Divine imperatives. If life, like the weather, is cycles, then the warmth we’re waiting for from the outside weather is already metaphorically warming our hearts.
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