Britain is being battered and much of Europe is being battered by storms. However much we dislike it, the truth is we can’t change the weather. Facing the raw power of the natural world shows us our vulnerability and challenges our inner resources.
Weekend Word, BBC Wales 14/2/2014 Listen to the Talk
When I first moved to Wales, my wife, who’s from the Valleys, told me a joke. If you can’t see the mountains it means it’s going to rain. If you can see them it means it’s already raining. That’s the dry humour of a wet country; but it has hardly ever been as rainy as this since records began, and we’ve had hurricane-force winds as well.
My heartfelt thoughts are with anyone who’s suffering as a result of the storms – and we’ve heard that some people are suffering a great deal. At such times, we often look for someone to blame. But these events confront us with something greater than any government can control. We sense our vulnerability. We realise that, while we can shape our environment, we can’t control the raw power of the natural world.
From a Buddhist perspective, the greatest challenge we face in our lives is how we respond to the things we can’t control and don’t like. It’s reasonable to do what we can to make our lives more secure and comfortable, but there’s a limit. Our bodies are vulnerable to old age and disease; and our possessions can be lost or destroyed.
However strong the storms are, the truth is we can’t change the weather. We can’t avoid difficulties, but we can change our responses. That’s true of the natural storms that are blowing at the moment and of the inner storms that sometimes blow though everyone’s life. According to the Buddha, it’s inevitable that our lives will be buffeted by what he called ‘the worldly winds’: pleasure and pain; gain and loss; fame and notoriety; praise and blame. If we’re intent on clinging tightly to the things we like, it’s likely that we’ll be blown off balance when difficulties arise. And if we can’t fix them, frustration and resentment can overwhelm us like floodwater.
What’s the alternative? I think kindness is important. Meeting our own suffering with kindness helps us manage it better. Kindness also motivates us to help each other, as we’re hearing in the inspiring stories of storm-battered communities across Wales. More bad weather’s coming, according to the forecasts. We can’t stop it and when it comes we’ll need all the kindness, fortitude, patience and courage we can muster.