Friday, January 25, 2013

Spreading the Gospel of Joy by Playing in the Snow

In honor of St. Francis de Sales, whose feast was yesterday (Jan. 24), and St. John Bosco, whose feast is next week (Jan. 31).

A week ago we had our first real snow of the year here in Regensburg. I was of course thrilled, singing “Winter Wonderland” and the like at the bus stop before dawn. On the way to my classes (which all started late because of the weather), I was positively frolicking, kicking up snow just to watch it glitter in the sunlight. I got a few smiles from fellow students, and I wondered whether my professors would be more likely to roll their eyes or be amused if they saw me.
Of course snow is normal here. And it’s not like I’ve never seen snow in my life. But I’ve never seen this particular snow here and now. Of course snow is no fun if you’re driving. But just because it comes every year is no reason to write it off as boring. I feel like such a phenomenon occurs often in literary scholarship. If you read enough books, you realize that there are only a few basic plots and that most books follow one of a few general patterns. Everything’s been said already—do we really need new books? Modern literature tends to be full of this thing called ennui. I define this word as existential boredom.  The inability to take joy in life because everything has already been done by someone else. I started thinking about all of this a few months ago when I heard in a class that there were really no new stories, just the same old ones rearranged. I then started to argue that with every new person comes a source of new stories. Every person is a new and unique instance in this world, no matter how many billions of us there are. Every person is a different meeting point of experiences, characteristics and perspectives. No one has ever seen the world through your eyes or mine, and no one ever will again.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,” says one of my favorite country songs[1]. Taking time to play in the snow, sliding screamingly down a hill in a trash bag, or even just pausing to look twice at the tiny frost crystals covering a twig, can help us keep alive that sense of wonder that is so essential to faith, and maybe even help someone else find it again.

[1] “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack

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