When we don’t have anything else to talk about, we talk about weather. Weather is common fodder for small talk. “When you’re talkin’ about weather, you can’t never tell what’s gonna happen.” Lately, lots of small talk is about the cold.
Small talk is conversation about things not of significant importance. Brief exchanges, we blow it off as superficial, even unnecessary. But substitute a word for the word “weather” and check the difference — it’s no longer “small” talk, it’s big talk.
“When you’re talkin’ about life, you can’t never tell what’s gonna happen.” “If you don’t like life, just wait five minutes.” That single word change is stunning. Suddenly it is no longer small talk. Weather is the BIG metaphor for life. Often when we talk about weather, we are really talking about life, our lives — my life, your life.
Winter is the metaphor for life that is cold, windy, harsh, and confining — “cabin-fever” time. We huddle and cuddle during the holidays and sometimes discover that the blankets are coarse and rough and the relationships we go to seeking warmth are itchy and cold. That may help make the post-holidays a season of high suicide. I remember a cold Christmas day that was a harshly frigid day in my emotional life. Most persons have such memories.
Several big-hope messages faithfully show up in late December. They are not delivered in pretty boxes or the sweetness of cookies and candy. They come to us because all is not pretty and sweet.
A baby comes crying into life bringing a clean start for humankind — both individually and all people together — starting over again, a fresh start at doing life creatively with love. That’s big hope-giver No. 1.
A seed was planted in a person and in communities of persons which started a movement, which is always failing but never completely. It faithfully plants and nurtures a way of neighbor love which is the only hope for humankind to mature collectively and personally. Somewhere off in the future it will maturely stand on what we have done and are doing for good. This is my faith. In cosmic time I am optimistic; therefore, I am optimistic now. That’s big hope-giver No. 2.
A world-wide but locally experienced celebration of confident trust dances through the cold and winter of all Earth’s peoples. Historically named the winter solstice, the souls of all places on earth sing and dance their way through and beyond our generation’s cold ugliness, evil, and despair into an ever-emerging eternal spring. It is a life force built into the universe’s very nature. That’s big hope-giver No. 3.
Rolling around Earth, New Year’s birthday energetically and merrily rejoices beginning anew, afresh, again over and over. We can always wipe the slate clean. A church song from the ’60s exuberantly declared, “The past is over and gone!” It’s time to start over. That’s big-hope giver No. 4.
When next you speak or hear small talk about the weather, listen to its echo for big talk about life.
Allen Polen is a retired United Methodist pastor and a Progressive Christian. He lives in Winfield.