Monday, April 24, 2017

Snowflakes in Winter

When I was perhaps 11 and my sister was 9, our Dad would often take us skiing in the winter, driving the 4 hours out to Lake Tahoe, and letting us wander the resorts so long as we stuck in a pair. We were both fairly competent and would tackle the occasional Black Diamond run or two together.

On one particularly clear day, my little sister slipped while we were close to a dangerous near-vertical drop. She fell on her stomach, face towards me, and slowly slid towards her inevitable doom, reaching out her hands, crying out my name repeatedly, begging me to help her as she scrabbled desperately to gain some purchase on the icy incline.

I planted my ski poles, not five feet away from her, and laughed.

She was in no danger. I could see that she was sliding down a fairly gentle slope that ended in a wide flat ledge before the perilous drop really began. The contrast between her perceived and actual danger amused me.

As her small form slid further down and away, her eyes filled with horror and disbelief: her protector, her friend, her big sister, would not even stretch out a hand but simply stood back positively relishing her imminent demise. What sick cruel joke was this? 

It took her awhile to get over that, even once she understood that she'd been in no actual danger. It left such a lasting impression that she still sometimes brings it up.

If our reflex reaction is to laugh at others when they are scared because of perceived danger (real or imagined) that'll probably come back to haunt you later. Episodes like that have the potential of sticking with people more than rational argumentation - they only see a hideous laughing visage and the danger seems to become worse because you can't trust the people around you to act with compassion.

There is a huge amount of stupidity in the world. But we're fighting against principalities and powers - not against people. Stupidity doesn't need to be coddled because it's not a person and sometimes laughter might be a good response when someone says something incredibly obtuse. But it should be a measured and deliberate response to the stupidity versus a reflexive and default position that conflates person and position.