“Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh, I’m gonna fade away”— The Rolling Stones
This is a day for shelter from the storm, and also for speaking up in resistance to that storm. Shelter so that the storm does not blow us away, and resistance so that one day the storm ends. We need the shelter of other people, and many of us find shelter in the quiet places of nature where we can let go of troubles and for a time simply be present to water and earth and sky.
Today the Russians escalated their invasion of Ukraine. The murderous gangster Putin, the “genius” as Donald Trump sees him, used lies and tanks to roll into an independent country to, in his terrible fantasy, take it back to revisit the glory of the good old Soviet days.
Yesterday the Texas Attorney General (who is under indictment for fraud and the subject of multiple ethics complaints) put out an opinion that gender-affirming medical care for teenagers is child abuse. The Governor promptly directed child protective services to look into such issues, potentially subjecting Texas kids, their families, and their doctors to investigation and criminal liability. The hard right keeps Texas’ culture wars going with appeals to ignorance, bullying and discrimination. Their ads are vomited out of our televisions nightly: “stop giving our money to illegals,” promotion of book bans, the destruction of public education, and denying that any harm ever came to a Black person, ever in the history of our country.
The storm is threatening and we need shelter, and we also must resist. We resist through our commitment to fellow humans even outside of our tribe, our determination to see that we are all cared for, and our insistence that we should all have a voice in how we live. We resist when we see compassion and empathy as strengths, not weaknesses. We resist by questioning why so many scorn “the common good.”
Shelter is necessary so that we are not burned up in constant resistance. We need a way to step outside the storm, in other words to spend some time (even a short time) in a nurturing and calm reality. This essentially requires on our part the mental ability to quiet our minds and for a time not live in an imagined “elsewhere” full of harm and conflict. If we can be fully present where we are, there is our shelter. Maybe we are in the comforting presence of another person. We might be listening to one of Beethoven’s late quartets (or the Rolling Stones!), or sitting outside, looking at the stars. We also could be walking through a woodland, with the sun filtered through tree branches and birds calling nearby. We could be in any of those places, but unless we can quiet our mind and step away from thoughts of the past or future, we will not really be sheltered from the storm.
Now more than ever we can see how nature is always there for us. When it seems that everything else is in chaos, usually that tree is still there, that prairie still the same comforting place it was last time. My wish for all of us is to have the shelter we need, and also the energy and courage to resist.