“Do not look upon this world with fear and loathing. Bravely face whatever the gods offer.”
– Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba
We talk about the weather every day, regardless of whether it’s nice out or downright rotten. In fact, we even talk about it a few times a day if it’s interesting enough. Sometimes it comes in handy when we need a topic to fill in awkward silences. If we’re not talking about it, we’re hearing about it. It’s only natural that it’s such a ubiquitous subject – it affects our daily lives in an immediate, profound way. Granted, not as much as it would if most of us weren’t sheltered in buildings for the majority of our days and nights. I wonder what we would do if we actually had to spend significantly more time outdoors. Would we blab about the elements even more or would we eventually get over it and silently endure it?
Our discourse surrounding weather conditions reveals a poignant truth about our fundamental attitudes. We modern humans are very bad at grasping reality and accepting it. We’re so centred on our own wants (which we often mistake for needs) that we’re constantly trying to butt heads with something we have zero control over. Actually, it’s interesting that we complain so much about something which has become more volatile and dangerous as a result of our own lifestyles. I’m certainly not suggesting that all natural disasters are the product of pollution. While the source of smog is obvious, it would be impossible to know which major meteorological events are products of human-generated climate change, but those of us in ‘developed’ countries can’t deny that there is some sense of collective guilt. The fact that it’s impossible to define or quantify is besides the point. I wouldn’t blame you, though, if your roof got ripped off by a tornado or half your community was carried away in a flood and you gave Mother Nature the finger. Then again, She may have every right to return the gesture (and she gets the last word at any rate).
Here’s the thing. Since birth we’ve experienced the seasonal cycles every year over and over again. There’s something fundamentally wrong with a culture than can’t acknowledge and make peace with something that is constantly thrust in its face. Every time the seasonal temperature starts dropping people start dreading winter. It can get very cold in some parts of the world, including where I grew up and here in Toronto (though people in Siberia or the Arctic would laugh at us). There’s also a difference between what I call dry cold and humid cold. In some ways, winters in Northern Ontario were much more pleasant than they are here. But when people in either place complain that it’s cold pretty much every day during the winter I get aggravated. Especially when they’re walking around indoors in a t-shirt. Now, Toronto summers can also be tough. I’ll state my bias openly: I’m very uncomfortable in hot, humid environments. I’m a human furnace to begin with. So the fact that I relish my Bikram yoga practice (at 40°C [104 Fahrenheit] with 40-50% humidity) is kind of strange. Not only do Torontonians experience the lake effect which makes it quite muggy, but as a large city we have the urban heat island effect too. When there’s an extreme heat alert, I try hard to remain equanimous and keep my discomfort to myself. At least in the winter you can bundle up. Going naked when it’s hot and sticky won’t help you any. I try to use my air conditioner as little as possible but I still feel guilty every time I do – and grateful – because I’ve rented small second-floor rooms in carpeted houses with no cross-breeze and that really sucked. Not to mention the fact that many people live in much more difficult environments and don’t get any relief.
I think the source of our inner struggle with the weather is fear of the unknown and resistance to change. Our culture is obsessed with measuring, monitoring, and analyzing. You can only do that with meteorological phenomena once they’re a thing of the past. It’s difficult to make social plans not knowing what the conditions will be. But somehow, as inconvenient as this often is, we deal with it. Every time the weather doesn’t cooperate it’s a reminder that there are things happening around us that aren’t affected by our personal experiences and thoughts. But we’re also not alone or disconnected. It’s almost like an invitation from Mother Nature to remember not to take ourselves too seriously, not to take anything for granted and to pay attention – because there is beauty in all things.
Even those of us who try to be more conscious of our resistance and our negative commentary aren’t immune to checking the forecast and expressing disappointment when we’re faced with a week’s worth of rain. I think the important thing to note here is that we need to embrace not only nature as it is but also to expand that mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. We need to accept at a deeper level that control is just an illusion and that life is change. So even though our meteorologist tells us that tomorrow is supposed to be sunny with blue skies, we always have to remember that nothing is fixed. If we spend more time observing the weather rather than judging it, we open ourselves to the opportunity to reconnect with nature and the universal laws that govern it (which we’ve forgotten we are subject to). A neutral person is an adaptable person and will have a lot less to complain about.