Feel The Thunder

An untitled  watercolor I did years ago

an untitled watercolor from the archives

I am sitting alone in the back room of a coffeehouse. The room is dark because the day is dark with rain. It is hot and very humid. The building shakes with thunder and the voices in the front room drop to a whisper. I imagine the voice of the thunder inspires awe or at least a library-esque respect. After the rumble subsides, the volume is restored. People laugh again and talk in a tumble over each other until the next rumble quiets them.

I came to work. Good coffeehouses have always been productive places for me though today I’m distracted by the thunder. Like the other patrons, the angry sky has me on alert. It is nearly impossible to focus on my thoughts when the sky has so much to say. The truth is, I want to listen to it. I want it to stop all motion, to interrupt all the little things I deem important. I want to pay attention to what it has to say.

I remember listening to a recorded lecture of Joseph Campbell. He said that the voice of the thunder was probably humanity’s first experience of the godhead. In other words, when the sky talked, people listened. Long before the weather channel replaced the oracle, connectivity between human action and the elements was assumed. Our actions mattered. The gods communicated their pleasure or displeasure with us via sunshine or tsunami. Calm seas and good sailing were signs of approval. It is a marvel in the age of humanity blowing a hole in the ozone, pouring tons of carbon into the atmosphere, having created a Texas size floating trash site in the ocean, exhausting aquifers, etc., that we can in all seriousness debate whether or not we are having an impact. I wonder if in the age of the weather channel as oracle we have so disconnected from “our nature” (our connectivity) that the debate is less about impact and really about whether or not we matter at all. If we do not recognize that our actions have impact, that the smallest action ripples through the lives of others, how can we possibly expect our existence to matter? Mattering requires the understanding and experience of connectivity.

When was the last time that you felt connected to the bigger whole? In the end of the day, mattering (spirituality by another name) is a very practical thing. It is to feel connected. When was the last time you stopped and listened to the thunder? When was the last time you felt its rumble in your chest, or noticed how quiet you became when it spoke?

2 Responses

  1. Bravo, David. When I walk each Wednesday the little 3 acre native grass restoration site I monitor on the Calaveras River I find–without fail–something I’d not noticed in the previous 2 and 1/2 years of weekly visits there. The space is so small the casual observer might be inclined to think I’d have seen it all by now. Not so. Not once have I come away saying: “Nothing new today.” Whether it is an unusual & heretofore unnoticed plant, a striking insect or simply a mysterious pattern of holes in the dirt there is always a new marvel; more often than not a whole collection of them. Each marvel embodies mysteries eliciting a flood of new questions. Along with my field note/sketchbooks, thousands of photos, and a collection of weekly audio recordings documenting my findings I have more than a dozen single spaced pages in 10pt font and filled margin to margin only with those questions. For a very few I have some notion of answers. The vast majority remain intriguing puzzles. To presume that we can really know everything about any place–each of which is just one of an infinite number comprising your “bigger whole”–is simply hubris. To believe we can actually “manage” any of those places let alone that bigger whole is the second place Fools’ Errand of Humanity. In first place is continuing to ignore our connection to it. And whether one believes that “bigger whole” is manifest entirely in the physical world or merely includes it doesn’t matter. My great hope is that one day the human race will come to understand that at least some of the other sentient beings with whom we share the planet–say…the great apes… virtually all the species of whales…elephants…the family dog!…(and surely some we still don’t even know exist)–have known this truth all along…and chosen to live accordingly.

  2. Connectivity, especially with the planet seems to be our greatest challenge right now. I’m hoping that the connectivity we are sharing now across the globe might lead to a collective awakening to the important to go outside and feel part of the ecology. To love it as ourselves…

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