Chicago under Polar Vortex

Chicago under Polar Vortex from Flickr Creative Common License

The news keep talking about coldest weather in some 20 years, named the “polar vortex.”      Youtube clips are circulating images of boiling water turning instantly into snow.   They warn of how in so many parts of the country human flesh is not intended to stay exposed to this cold for more than 5 minutes.

As always, my inclination is to begin with the least of these.  I wonder about the 22,000 homeless children in New York City.  I wonder about those without adequate shelter across the country.   I wonder about the abandoned elderly without loved ones to look after them, women like Norma Jeannette Sheldon who wander outside and freeze to death.

And as always, I also look inward.

We worry so much about the damage to the human flesh from this brutal cold, and surely we must.  It is literally a matter of life and death.

But I also wonder why we fail to show the same concern for exposure of the human heart to brutal cold.    There is a cold that is not from the arctic, but rather from the frozen realm of coldness, of distance, of isolation.  I see so many around who are lacking meaningful emotional relationships, or in relationships where the love long since evaporated.  I wonder how long these hearts should remain exposed to the frozenness inside.

frozen heart

frozen heart from Shutterstock

And I see many who are afraid to become vulnerable, forgetting that only a heart that has its defenses up is also closed to love.   There is reason why the word courage comes from the same root as the word for heart.   It takes courage to love, courage to be loved, courage to be vulnerable.  It takes heart to give and receive love.  And I worry about these hearts that might become frozen.

I worry about all of us whose hearts are numb, are frozen.   And just as human flesh is not meant to linger in this brutal cold for more than a few minutes, I hope that those who find themselves in frozen relationships, with frozen hearts, find means to either thaw their hearts, or get out if the relationship is irredeemably frozen.

We as human beings are not meant to live exposed to frozenness.

May there be warmth inside and outside, inner and outer, till all that is frozen is warmed and brought to life.

Categories: Beliefs, Culture, Ethics, Institutions, Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

Omid Safi

Omid Safi

Omid Safi is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. He leads educational tours to Turkey every summer, through Illuminated Tours:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.