When conservative cultural warriors, Twitter Trolls, or dyspeptic gasbags like Rush Limbaugh call you a “Special Snowflake”, I have discovered, to my chagrin, that they don’t mean it as a compliment. In their self-centered, egotistical world you have to be as emotionally tough and able to “take it” as they believe (somewhat erroneously to my way of thinking) they themselves are. They have no time for political correctness, safe spaces, or, apparently, manners polite enough not to get you killed on the mean streets where they never go. Being a retired school teacher who was once in charge of fragile young psyches trying to negotiate a cruel Darwinian world, I think I disagree with them.
Have you ever tried to draw a snowflake? Believe me, it is difficult. Snowflakes are hexagonal star-shapes with enough lace and filigrees in them to make it a nightmare to draw it with painfully arthritic hands. The one above took me an hour with ruler and compass and colored pencils, and it still doesn’t look as good as a first grader can create with scissors and folded paper. Much better to use a computer program to spit them out with mathematical precision and fractal beauty. That’s how all the tiny ones in the background were created. But even a computer can’t recreate the fragile, complicated beauty of real snowflakes.
You see how the fragile crystalline structures will break in spots, melt in spots, attach to others, and get warped or misshapen? That is the reason no two snowflakes are alike, even though they all come from the same basic mathematically precise patterns generated by ice crystals. Life changes each one in a different way.
And that, of course, is the reason this essay is really about people rather than mere physical artifacts of cold weather. Our fragilities and frailties are earned, and they make us who we are. I have a squinky eye like Popeye from playing baseball and getting hit by a pitch. I have a big toe that won’t bend from playing football. They both represent mistakes that I learned from the hard way.
As a teacher, I learned that bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders are very real things. I lost a job once to one of those. And I spent a long night talking someone out of suicide one horrible December. Forgive me, I had to take fifteen minutes just there to cry again. I guess I am just a “special snowflake”. But the point is, those things are real. People really are destroyed by them sometimes. And they deserve any effort I can make to protect them or help them make it through the night.
But people are like snowflakes. They are all complex. They are all beautiful in some way. They are all different. No two are exactly the same.
And I really think boorish bastards have no right to insist that we need to take safe spaces and sanctuaries away from them. Every snowflake has worth. Winter snow leaves moisture for seedlings to get their start every spring. If you are a farmer, you should know this and appreciate snowflakes. And snowflakes can be fascinating. Even goofy ones like me.