Sunday, February 04, 2007

Shoveling Snow as Spiritual Discipline

We got a lot of snow yesterday. This morning I was up bright and early to shovel. It took me an hour and a half. The hardest part is the mountain at the foot of the driveway left by the snowplows that plow the road.

Here are some of the games I play to help me do this arduous task with good cheer.

Sometimes I imagine snow shoveling as a winter Olympic sport. I imagine the TV commentary as all of those riveted fans watch and admire my technique.

Other times, I simply imagine my neighbors watching out their windows, noticing that my approach is artistic, and admiring that my technique is graceful, almost dancelike. I get into a rhythm, and try to convey through my motions joy and beauty (rather than the grumpy fatigue I am tempted to feel)! Can I, through this simple activity, inspire in others a new perspective on mundane reality? Can I convey my undying love for snow even though it creates all of this hard work? I set this as my task. There is more at stake than a driveway needing clearing -- it's an existential moment with its own transcendent possibilities, not only for myself, but for others.

And yet I hold no illusions that anyone is paying the slightest bit of attention. After I come in, I hear neighbors' snow-blowers revving up. Sighing, I realize that, while they might admire me for doing my long driveway by hand, at a pragmatic level they more likely think I am a bit clueless. If they think about me at all, they probably think that I'm poor, or afraid of machines, instead of in-principle trying to reduce carbon emissions. They probably don't perceive that I intentionally adopt an exercise program of useful work as much as I can integrate it into my life.

So, in the end, it is not those fantasies that really keep me going, so much as my appreciation of the inherent spiritual value of using one's own human energy to get work done in the world, and seeking to inject such work with as much joy, grace, and beauty, as one can manage.

So I carve up my driveway into interesting patterns, and tackle one at a time. And I create ergonomic dancelike moments to reduce the risk of injuring my back. I go in and put band-aids on if I start to get blisters.

And I soak in a nice warm bath after I finally finish.

2 comments:

  1. "So, in the end, it is not those fantasies that really keep me going, so much as my appreciation of the inherent spiritual value of using one's own human energy to get work done in the world, and seeking to inject such work with as much joy, grace, and beauty, as one can manage."

    Very well said! Thank you for the sweet snow post. Useful work is the answer, isn't it?

    Laurie

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  2. Laurie,

    Thank you!

    Yes, useful: and integrated into one's life, and connecting oneself to others and/or to the natural world.

    -CS

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