The term snowflake has taken on a common place in our everyday vernacular of late. Its original meaning was to convey the idea that we are all unique, special, and exquisitely alone in our us-ness.
And of course, lately the term has come to mean something different entirely. It’s become a way to slander, to deride, and to discredit. Anybody who is seen as sensitive is called a special snowflake, purporting the notion that somehow that person’s dissent from the norm is a form of weakness. After all, snowflakes are brittle.
As happens with most ideological or political arguments, we’ve ended up with two sides, two polar opposites battling for ultimate victory.
And of course, they are both wrong.
This is a snowflake:
It is undeniably unique, just like every human on the planet. Even identical twins are not truly one and the same. And because this snowflake is unique, it will fall through the air in a slightly different way than the other snowflakes around it. A wider edge might give it more surface area, so it catches the wind and flies further than the other snowflakes which crystalized around it at the same time. So yes, snowflakes and people are unique.
And this is a snowstorm:
Do you notice anything interesting about this snowstorm?
In this picture alone, there is not one snowflake, but hundreds of thousands of them. Which means a snapshot of the entire storm, at any given moment, would be made up of billions of snowflakes, maybe more!
But the storm, the grouping of snowflakes, follows the laws of physics. The group has the same general direction. While each snowflake is unique, none of them will suddenly fly off into space or decide to become a rock in order to get to the ground faster. After all, they are snowflakes. And the purpose of a snowflake is to dance through the air, in its own unique way, but eventually fall to the ground so that we all get to enjoy the beauty of winter.
I don’t want this metaphor to get out of hand, so let’s get back to reality.
Every human on this planet is wonderfully unique. I love that. It means we all have different gifts to give which can make humanity move forward.
But it’s our shared humanity which is important, far more than any one individual. It’s the coming together for a better world, and someday perhaps, a better universe, that makes our unique gifts so special because that means we have many ways to get there.
So, far from decrying the special snowflakes out there, I say we celebrate them. Because we are all special snowflakes. The grizzled marine veteran and the liberal arts student are both special, but obviously different.
And instead of using our special us-ness to divide, I believe we ought to be like the winter storm: filled with an infinite number of gifted individuals, all working toward one common goal.
So before the next time you accusingly call somebody a snowflake, take a long look in the mirror, because you may as well be telling it to yourself.