"Why is the whining so loud? Because the stakes are so small."
— Patrick J. Callahan, U.S. coffee shop philosopher
Depending where you are today across the Rogue Valley, you can look out your window and see winter storm remnants that someone else has not cleared away.
Most of us are more than willing to talk (or write) about the weather; but when it comes to doing something about it "» well, let's just say our priorities go adrift. Whereupon we hit the streets and leave the shoveling to someone else.
Or, as Medford Public Works Director Cory Crebbin so artfully put it Thursday, "You can't run a snowplow through bumper-to-bumper traffic."
Oh, but if we could, wouldn't that just be a convenient way to push aside your troubles that seem to mount as the year ends?
You can't fight winter any more than you can fight City Hall or the annoyance that grows with those who believe they are right, even though you know them in your heart to be wrong.
Opinions are like elbows, my father used to say: Everybody has at least one. Worse, they're willing to share them, no matter what protective covering you wear over your ears. But when it comes to the actual heavy lifting of unleashing their dogma, these would-be fonts of wisdom would just rather dump their thoughts on your doorstep than act on them.
Take for instance the notion of participating in city government. Every now and then we see notices from Southern Oregon hamlets of committee after committee needing volunteer members. Where are those with instant opinions when they're needed? More often than not, looking out the window, waiting for someone else to clear the roads.
We enjoy reveling in and sharing our misery, particularly this time of year when so much we had hoped (or expected) to go our way took a look in our direction and decided — like King Arthur in "Monty Python & The Holy Grail" — not to come to such a silly place.
The United States, as a whole, ranked 17th in this year's World Happiness Report, which means either "yeah, what do they know?" or that Disney is guilty of false advertising. The happiest nation, despite its reputation for rotten things happening there, is Denmark.
The report cites all sorts of things that make Denmark happy, including the quaint notion that more than 40 percent of the Danish population volunteer their time to work for cultural, social and political organizations and the like — the value of this unpaid effort being estimated at 35.3 billion krones (which is roughly about 5.8 billion U.S. dollars, or the number of reality show "Housewives" you can watch on any given night).
Work just takes too much effort, though, and besides, who wants to be happy this time of the year? Saying "Happy Christmas" just means you're British, fake-British like Madonna, or a foot soldier in The War On Merry.
Speaking of reality shows, and shoveling stuff that piles up around you, who can be happy these days when you see what has happened to the good ol' boys of "Duck Dynasty"?
The head of the Robertson clan stuck his webbed foot in his mouth in an interview in GQ (which really says more about GQ, doesn't it?) with comments about the "sin" of homosexuality and how the Civil Rights Act spoiled the happy lives of the African-Americans he worked aside in the cotton fields of Louisiana.
Before you could say "Jackie Robinson," feathers were ruffled and Robertson's comments were defended as free speech by notable self-promoters "» er, inclusive politicians such as Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and a congressional candidate in Illinois who compared Uncle Phil to Rosa Parks — as well as the conservative Christian commentator Jon Stewart "» who defended the Duck Commander's right to be ignorant.
You might ask yourself, "Why does this matter?" In the scope of things — when the latest economic report was encouraging, there's a bipartisan budget deal, and there isn't a new Nicholas Sparks movie due for at least another five minutes — the travails of a man with a flowing grey beard stepping in duck doo-doo would appear to be a blip on the radar, like that water spout seen on Jupiter.
But you'd be wrong, for melodrama such as this feeds our need for screeds at a time of year when the more relevant issues of the day — such as, say, whether you believe that Santa Claus and Jesus are Caucasian — are simply beyond the capacity of our minds to conceive.
We live in a world in which a University of North Carolina report found that 45 of 5,340 young women in a health study were certain their pregnancies will result in a virgin birth.
On the other hand, a recent blind study of coffee drinkers found that most people think their caffeine tastes better if they're told ahead of time that it's "organic" — whether or not it actually is.
We like to believe in realities we can easily grasp, or at least get served to us in digestable, scripted hourly installments. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend on your bag of beans.
Does all this make us good or bad in the eyes of Krampus? It's not that easy to say.
Take the story of the homeless family who stayed out of an Ashland shelter last week, reportedly because the City Council reaffirmed children are not allowed to stay overnight out of safety (and potential liability) reasons.
No good soul would turn away a child purposely on such a cold winter's night, and the city and shelter operators are seeking a solution, but as one volunteer was quick to point out, "Jesus was a minor" "» so, apparently there's precedent, even if we're not in Bethlehem, or North Carolina.
Is it any wonder we choose to stare out the window, and wait for someone else to do the shoveling?
Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at email@example.com