J. M. W. Turner, Snow Storm-Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, exhibited 1842,

Seems like there are a lot of storms in the air at the moment. Literal storms, personal storms, metaphysical storms — all kinds of storms. Of course, some storms are beautiful displays of nature, while others brings about untold grief and destruction. There is something absolute to a storm. When a storm hits we can’t always ‘make it better’ or fix what has been broken. The problem with comforting words in the face of tragedy — which might of course might be necessary — is that you can deprive a person of his/her natural response. The comforters are often sneakily trying to comfort themselves, to deny the reality of the storm that is coming for them sooner or later.

I think it was Krishnamuri who advised someone, who was dealing with the loss of a child, to ‘stick to the facts’. If there is loss there is loss. If there is death there is death. Any kind of sentimental narrative — saying that ‘so and so is in heaven’ and all that — is doing violence though denial of the unknown. And traditional peoples, indigenous Americans for instance, understood that the mourning process was a deeply necessary spiritual time: a time to both let things go and gather new ‘information’ through listening. One has to be deeply receptive to get the information that comes in dreams and various deep messages — to take time to reassemble the world.

A storm is somehow something absolute, it can’t be questioned — even if it is the result of global warming. Nature brings with us storms, it tears up the ground, it sends fire from the sky, floods over the earth. It brings with it a new world, the world after the flood. After the flood, nothing is the same. The world is simultaneously fresh and new, even as we survey the gnarled trees, the smashed highways, and the mayhem. This new world may be too bright, too new for the eyes to see it — or conversly too dark to find a compass. The old world may be still too much with us, so we will not be able to adjust, to say goodbye to broken things. The heart breaks open, it has to break. What will be the shape of our new heart?

Every mythology tells us of a primal storm at our point of orgin. Birth itself may be experienced as a storm. But birth also brings with it the ‘birth of tragedy’. The tragedy of our mortal coil cannot be denied: it is that we are lost in the sea of human time that has perceived beginnings and endings. If we are lucky we can navigate through time and lead a full and fruitful life before we cast way our mooring. But tragic circumstances cling to every life — even the most seemingly immune. The body hangs to the tree, to nature, in the midst of storms. This is not a religious sentiment, it’s a fact. We are eventually broken by nature and then blown away. But what remains?

As a child, I remember with nostalgia the terror and excitement of lightning storms in my little cabin in Nova Scotia. The cabin would sometimes shake, and I was given the awareness that it could easily be ripped to shreds, and my small life smashed like a tea cup — stolen away in a breath. But does that not open the doors of perception wide and give one a peek behind the curtain? What is waiting there, in the jaws of great wrathful one?

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