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Riders of the Storm

I’m writing this in my study in the attic of my three story house atop a hill as Hurricane Sandy attempts to blow the whole affair down. It remains to be seen if she’ll be successful, but I expect the house to be victorious in the end. This house has been here since 1930, and it’s seen meaner storms than this (though not in the past twenty years).

Then again, maybe its time has come.

There is something viscerally terrifying about big storms like this. Unlike earthquakes and tornadoes and tsunamis – all of which can be just as destructive – we seem to establish relationships with big storms. They have moods, personalities, and seem to make decisions. We assign them names to make this process of anthropomorphosis easier to manage and watch their every move as they bear down on us, ready to potentially crush that which we have spent so long building. While other natural disasters demonstrate the fickle and unknowable hand of fate, there is something basically different about a storm; they suggest premeditation, aggression, malice.

There is no such emotion attached, of course – they’re just meteorological phenomena, and every bit as fickle and unknowable as any other disaster. Yet, given how long they last and how many they affect and how much time we have to consider them, they afford us puny humans an opportunity to have a conversation with the Great Unknowable or, as some folks call It/Him/Her/They: God. We shake our fists at the heavens and yell ‘God, why are you knocking trees down on my garage? Why you gotta be like that, dude?’ We ponder our sins, even if we do not believe in any such thing as divine punishment, because it is easier to look upon your faults if you can ascribe the universe the sentience sufficient to punish you for them.

When Lieutenant Dan, legless and angry, ascends the mast of Gump’s fishing boat and screams his heart out at the raging storm, we understand him. We, too, rail against the inevitable. We, too, rage against the mighty, inexorable power of nature. It is, as ever, all about us. How dare the skies seek to smash our dreams? How dare the seas rise up and drown our hopes and plans? We are humanity, supreme overlords of all that we survey, and it is an affront to our collective pride to have us thusly neutered and abused. In the storm’s fury it is easier to mirror our own, and all the better for the storm to have a name by which we may curse it. “Sandy”, we say, “I am here, and you aren’t moving me. I matter. I am greater than you.”

But, of course, it’s just a storm. When we yell, we are not yelling at anything that cares to hear us. When we yell, we are only yelling at the doubts we harbor within ourselves. When we vent at the storm, we are only venting the energy and the fury of the storm that rages always without our hearts. The storm that drives us onward. The storm that rules us.

The storm that will, by and by, tear us all down.