Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Talking about the Weather

I used to think that talking about the weather was a poor excuse for conversation and essentially a waste of time, part of the social chatter we feel expected to engage in.

With the passing of the years comes some wisdom--or at least insight: I now see that when my neighbor eagerly tells me about the amount of rain we've just had or even when friends complain about the heat, they are engaging in something important: an awareness of the present world. They're talking about what's happening now, about what's beyond their usual preoccupations, which are likely to involve worries about the future or frustration about the past.

To talk about the weather is to talk about the immediate life-world in which we all share. It is related to the awe and wonder we sometimes feel just looking at a blue sky or at a tranquil lake surrounded by trees, when time seems to stop and we are caught up in an awareness of something greater than ourselves.

G. K. Chesterton writes that before his religious conversion and a belief in God he felt a kind of gratitude for the natural pleasures of nature. He was referring to the inherent mystical tendency we all have but often don't know we have. He writes that even mere existence for him "was extraordinary enough to be exciting."

This reminds me of the poem by e.e.cummings, in which he thanks God for "most this amazing day...for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes." This poem captures some of the wonder and awe of ordinary mysticism that Chesterton felt as a young man and that most of us, if we're fortunate, can find every day.

The very fact that I can see and hear, that I can write on a quiet morning when the sun pours through my study window is not to be taken for granted: it is all amazing.

This primal sense of gratitude springs from an essential awareness that, in spite of everything awful happening around us, the world is essentially good. This type of affirmation is not always easy to feel, but it springs from an impulse that has to be called religious. To experience life as a gift freely given is a recognition of God.

So we are all mystics when we pay attention to the present, to the wonders of creation, and even to the weather.

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