"Too hot!" That has long been a common complaint by many people on the hottest days of summer. However, when the extreme becomes even more extreme (aggravated in part by climate change), it can be very hard to dreamily sing "Summertime, and the livin' is easy." Perhaps the following article, first published five years ago, can help make us more appreciative of summer as part of the recurring cycle of the seasons.
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It was a late summer. There were more clouds than typical for a summer day, but that felt good because it gave relief from the hot summer sun. What felt even better was a breeze that brushed across my face, bringing the promise of a respite from the summer heat we had endured for weeks. "Maybe we'll get a cooling rain," I thought. My slight elation at the change in weather was, however, kept in bounds by a larger awareness. Namely, I knew that the pleasant shift in weather I was experiencing was the result of a distant hurricane that was coming ashore farther away, bringing destruction upon other people.
A less selfish response does not require more scientific understanding of storms. It only requires a "compassionate heart," to use a Buddhist phrase. A wiser and more open-hearted response to tragedy was modeled by Jesus after a tower fell, killing people. Even without a knowledge of Newtonian physics, Jesus knew that natural disasters do not injure just bad people, and that they do not spare just good people. Challenging his listeners to join him in that enlightened response, he asked rhetorically, "Those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them -- do you think that they were worse offenders...? No, I tell you." (Luke 13:4-5, NRSV). Jesus's reminder to us that "bad things can happen to good people," as we say today, echoes that same insight form the Jewish tradition's book of Job in the Bible. Job's suffering from natural forces was not a punishment.
Although in English we have separate words for "wind" and "spirit," in the Bible's original languages, the two are the same word. We might think "wind-spirit." That equivalence can remind me when that light wind touches my face, to ask myself what my own spirit is like, especially when I know of the dangerous hurricane further away.
There is another side of the coin to this matter of the uncertainties of the natural world -- the fact that natural forces can bring both damaging winds and needed rain. I easily notice when bad luck befalls me. In contrast, I easily overlook all the ways I have been helped by good things that were just as much beyond my control. The light wind that brushes my face can, therefore, widen my awareness even further. The double meaning of wind-spirit can remind me to remember a larger spirit of unseen forces that support my life. A native American Ojibwe song put it this way:
Is there a way you have come to think about the uncontrollable uncertainties of life?