Talk About The Weather
I never spent a lot of time worrying about the weather. And being here in Honolulu has effectively cured me of any lingering habit I might have had to worry much about checking the weather or fearing for what it will bring—surely some rain here and there, but nothing to get very worried about. And then I saw the news yesterday and this morning.
“Light Snow Falls in Florida and Georgia as ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Hits the South.” The article goes on to explain that parts of North Carolina are recording the coldest temperatures in 130 years. And more shocking than any of these might be the reports I’ve received telling me that drivers in New York City are…wait for it…stopping at intersections for long periods to allow any pedestrians to cross so that the walkers don’t have to wait any longer in the snow. Folks, when New York City drivers are being courteous to pedestrians…we need to talk about the weather.
Of course, talking about the weather has a long and storied tradition in the realm of small talk. If you’re not sure what to talk about, when in doubt, talk about the weather. And conversely, when conversations drift to talk of the weather, it might be a sign that the two people speaking have run out of things to talk about (or things they’re willing to talk about). And if you’ll pardon the theological geek-out, weather events throughout many cultures and faiths are closely tied to human understandings of how gods and humans interact. Whether a ceremony to ask for rain, a story of a god speaking through a cloud (called a theophany), or a rainbow creating a staircase from the heavens, weather is how humans often feel they are in touch with something greater than themselves, and maybe something divine.
Much of the fear and awe our human ancestors held for weather has waned. In most of our pockets rests a device that provides comprehensive predictions of all kinds of weather all over the world. We even know when meteor showers, comets, and asteroid fly-bys will occur in all their celestial wonder. In a sense, weather has become something we all see coming but we have to deal with anyway. And that is why talking about the weather might still hold such appeal.
As busy little humans, taking control of so much in our environment, when we are reminded that forces beyond our power to control can alter our very existence overnight, we are forced into a kind of unity under the banner of something very difficult for many of us: humility. And just as powerful are the storms that rage, the ices that freeze, and the deserts in drought in our very souls. That is why I do not subscribe to the concept of human vs. nature. Humans are nature. And at times the forces of nature at work in our bodies and our souls, also known as feelings, can just as quickly as a “bomb cyclone,” alter our very existence. And that, to me, is deeply, deeply humbling.
So maybe as often as we choose to speak of the weather to one another, we might also choose to share our deepest humanity, our most reverent humility, with one another…and to let one another cross the street.
Blessings to you,