When you see #abstorm trending on Twitter, get ready for some show-stopping, jaw-dropping, Hollywood-worthy photos of big skies filled with weird, extra-terrestrial-looking cloud formations, Thor-style bolts of lightning, and/or stripping, pummelling fists of hail.
Yes, in Alberta, Canada, we do storms well. There’s a certain kind of awe; almost homage-paying that happens as you hunker down and hope it passes, yet simultaneously just marvel at the majesty of Mother Nature in all her fury.
But, even the biggest, most vitriol storms seem to pale in comparison to the storms of humanity raging all around. Here. There. Everywhere. Hashtag: ‘world storm’. I’ve shaken my head in disbelief so many times that I feel like one of those dashboard bobble-heads. My neck aches…
Worse… My heart aches.
And, most of us just don’t know if/where to ‘duck’; if to ride it out or to rail against forces we just don’t seem to have any control over, but which seem to have such crushing power over us.
Or… do they?
You see, part of the reason #abstorm is always so dramatic is because the tweets and photos reveal a certain swashbuckler sense of joy, mastery almost, in learning to cooperate with and even to ‘court’ Mother Nature. Ah yes, we congratulate ourselves over and over for our good-natured and rugged ability to ‘weather’ our weather – from harsh winters to unpredictable, wicked, resplendently imposing summer storms.
So, what – if we could see the analogy – what is the parallel learning and strength opportunity for the intense, raging ‘human storms’ that are scourging our world?
There’s little to no time for lengthy discourse. As in the midst of a howling storm, we often have to find solutions even as we’re but halfway through the question/s!
Somehow, we’ve got to figure out how to address the ‘before’; the ‘during’; and, the ‘after’ of not just one, but several swirling storms, all at once.
And, the old adage of “this too shall pass” rings hollow, as we realize that it’s not passing. Not this time. Rather, it’s more like a new, pervasive, disturbing reality. One that is here to stay. One that is long overdue for us to face. And, our only option is to find the eye of the storm and from that place, do what we can to prepare for the next, all the while attempting to remake a new world in the aftermath.
Or so it has felt to me.
And, it’s had me wondering… just how do we navigate the upheaval and re-create or shape a new future, both at the same time?
Many days, it’s made me seasick. There’s no respite; no land to be found, either. Nowhere that I don’t feel that nauseous disequilibrium of constant disorder and instability as the ground shifts beneath our feet and the black skies crash open overhead, spewing fury with everything they’ve got!
I’m not alone…
We’re not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm.
– Damien Barr
Oddly, that thought gives me comfort. We are perhaps beginning to understand our common storm – that is, what makes us human. One. In it, together. And, in the face of that, a reconsideration of how we choose to treat (and, hopefully, honour) each other as human beings.
If we let it, the storm may kindle a spark of hope within. Perhaps even a groundswell desire to be part of history-making. A reckoning and recognition that the time is now, for our next best version of, and grandest vision, for humanity. Beginning with each of us, and all as one.
In the midst of it all, what to do and where to start? How do we weather this human storm and use it as a chance to cultivate real and meaningful transformation?
One storm; different boats. Could we begin by appreciating the fleet and each individual ‘vessel’? As Sufi mystic Rumi reminded us centuries ago,
“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and twice as beautiful as you’d ever imagined. Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Perhaps we start by adopting Rumi’s ‘wisdom’ – to start with ourselves and open to possibility.
The pragmatist in me always likes to be able to ‘see’ such ideals in practical, what I call ‘speed-of-life’ application. So… if the first step is finding our way to the eye of the storm, here’s possibly what that looks like; right here, right now. Not the way; but, rather, a way.
Muster courage. Enact it through contribution.
One little-recognized way that courage can show up is through contribution. It’s when we’re being/become the one who’s willing to do what’s needed.
Look around. Listen. Lean into, for a moment, and deeply acknowledge whatever innate emotions are being triggered in you, me and others. See the inevitable fear-induced, knee-jerk, ‘lizard-brain’ ways of lashing out. See the myriad representations – the combative, ignorant, compliant, evasive, defiant or other insensible variations of ‘fight, flight or freeze’ – as but the self-protective reactions that they are.
Breathe. Breathe for those who cannot. Let your humanity come to life. Then choose.
Draw on your strength to face what would otherwise intimidate or derail you. Give of yourself, to serve and contribute to others’ wellbeing. Do so even if, and especially when, it may never be reciprocated. No action is too small. Realize:
What courage is not, is the absence of fear.
Choose to be bigger than fear; and, act anyway. Courage, as its Latin root-word cor suggests, doesn’t come from a mind overrun or misfiring on fear. It comes from our hearts and a mind able and open to express, not react. So, begin there. Care. Care enough to care; and then show courage in your every action, with every person you meet, no matter what ‘boat’ they are in. One storm, remember?
Let your heart become the eye of the storm. Gently reign in your mind. Consider this question: “When we together will have created a new world, a new way, in the aftermath of these storms, and a next-generation looks back on what we did, what do you hope they will see?”
Summon your inner leader. Whether as friend, colleague, student, educator, parent, worker, business-owner, executive – as steward of our collective humanity – begin, with your very next action, to create that.
In your boat; in our storm; how will you start… now?