Much of our planet is presently at the mercy of weather extremity. In the United States, as in so many other parts of the world, high temperatures and rising water have eclipsed other concerns.
As we collectively register what’s occurring, a person cannot help but be heartbroken by the scenes of devastation. So many have lost their homes, their livelihoods, loved ones. What might be ahead? Is there anything we can count on? It is all profoundly unnerving.
Nature is doing its best to teach us that nothing is certain, and that any impression of separation is an illusion. We have drawn boundaries around nations and classes and cultures. The forces of nature make a mockery of all of them.
But these words of mine (like this moment we’re in) are not just about rain and heat.
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How we ache for stability! It helps us feel safe to know there are things that can be counted on. Even though we sense, deep in, that there’s no knowing what’s ahead. There never has been; we only imagined it could be so. People prefer predictability over uncertainty and ceaseless change. The shore will remain where it’s always been. A self-care method we’ve relied upon to ease physical or emotional pain will continue to soothe us.
Nature is doing its best to teach us that nothing is certain.
But what happens when the familiar line separating land from water melts away, or disappears altogether? When all the familiar rules are blown apart like star dust?
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We long for comfort and control. We’re animated by the subtle energy of assuming and hoping: assuming what’s good will hold, and hoping that with enough effort what is less than wonderful will improve.
Seldom do we hold still and simply relax into what-is. Because often what’s real right now feels less than delicious. Maybe tomorrow will be better, we say.
This dynamic (of which we are mostly unconscious) is a subtle way of not relaxing into immediate reality. We’re constantly urging toward a longed-for future. Anything but the now, as it is.
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Vermont, where I presently live, has sometimes been referred to as a likely destination for “climate refugees” — that is, people fleeing other locations in the United States that have been predicted to become too hot or wet for habitation. So much for that theory. What has happened here over the last few days has been yet another lesson in how we know nothing whatever.
God help us if we don’t at long last get that we are all in the same sinking boat. No matter our political differences, or any of the rest of what divides us.
What are we left with? And why on earth do I continue to feel the same joy and gratitude I’ve experienced for years? Even as a couple of days ago, in the ferocious rising tides of a nearby river, the dock my daughter and I have loved launching our kayaks from, so many placid summer days, was ripped from the dissolving shoreline and got hauled downstream, headed for parts unknown.
How can this be? How is it possible for the fragile human heart to hold both at once: profound peace and the truth of radical uncertainty? How can these things co-exist?
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What happens when we allow the terrible truth of what-is to take us in its arms? Why does it feel like love? Why are we moved to be kind to ourselves and to others? Witness my fellow Vermonters bearing shovels, showing up in heaps of stinky river muck to dig out their less fortunate neighbors.
This is what love does.
Freedom means being real with the fact of this moment, however awful it may be. And some mysterious how, to do so feels delicious. Don’t ask the mind to understand this; mine sure as heck cannot. But can I attest to the truth of it? With all my heart.
It feels good to love. Isn’t that what waking up is all about? Sometimes it takes a disaster to throttle us awake. We were born to love, not to suffer.
I wish you well in all of it.