….some thoughts on the local weather of Palestine.
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Loki: “I’m not overly fond of what follows.” [when Cap asks if he’s “scared of a little lightning”] — from Marvel’s The Avengers movie.
Ok. So, on the one hand, taking from Norse mythology is probably not the smartest idea in the world. But, it is the Marvel version. Thor and company do embody a religion that is deeply impacted by weather. Also, the manifestations in the Marvel universe can easily have Christian parallels (Thor – Jesus, Loki – Satan, Odin – God the Father). My examples are only meant loosely, not as theological endorsements of Thor. I found this scene funny and pertinent because the word play.
As I have said many times in this series posts, weather affects us. It affects us physically. It also affects our psychological states (and sometimes our spiritual states). It is part of “our story”.
Personally, I have a number of weather events that are a part of my story. A tornado. Multiple hurricanes, including Katrina. A few snow and ice events, which now includes the recent event in Texas. It is a part of who I am. In much the same way, it impacted the people of the Bible. If we can understand it, it will give us a deeper understanding of why they reacted the way they did.
Some of you might be thinking, “How would it help me to understand this?? Why does this matter?” Let me attempt to explain a little further. We lived in Houston, TX for a year. When it would rain, I noticed people drove really, really, slowly. On the one hand, you may think, “Well, just drive around them.” That wasn’t always possible in Houston metro bumper to bumper traffic. It drove me crazy. I would think to myself, “what is the BIG DEAL?!?!? It is JUST a little RAIN!” Then, …I saw what happened during Hurricane Harvey. Now, I understand. I saw streets I had driven on in inches of water. So, perspective is helpful.
A whirlwind (or vortices) is something that is mentioned in the Bible. It is how Elijah was taken up to heaven. There is almost a deified respect for whirlwinds in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. But, how do these weather phenomena get started??
In much the same manner that Houston has a weather pattern, “Palestine is a land of two seasons.” (Holman) There is a wet season and a dry season. Rains and floods were common for them. Some people had figured out how to make the floods beneficial for themselves. The Egyptians would use the silt brought in by the floods to fertilize their crops. They learned to manage. Depending on the elevation you lived in, you could have all manner of hot and cold temperatures. That had to have played havoc with the human body. These rains and seasons would also factor into their religious celebrations and New Moon festivals. It would provide a basis for telling stories that could easily gain a religious context. If somebody has had an experience that they perceive as dramatic, they can tell the story with great drama and conviction.
With the story of Noah in Genesis, there is another phenomenon that is mentioned…a rainbow. Rainbows are truly gorgeous and fascinating. Color through the mixture of water and light. It also was theologically significant to the Jews: the promise of not having anymore deluges or destruction by floods…a promise of hope. When people see the rainbow, they are reminded of that promise. They are reminded of hope.
In the Marvel movie, “Thor: Ragnarok”, Thor is talking to Odin and telling him that he cannot do something because he does not have his hammer. I love Odin’s response. He asked Thor, “Are you the God of Hammers?” The question was one of identity. Once Thor understood his identity, he became more powerful. This is a central tenet of many psychological theories, especially for adolescence. I think it is one that most of wrestle with on a daily basis, no matter our age. In the moments we understand our identity in the situation, we gain more power and control over the situation.
One of the other deep questions in psychology is “nature vs. nurture”. In other words, is it the environment one is born into that shapes ones’ nature, or are we born with our nature? I personally believe it is both because both effects can be seen in people.
As I close out this series of posts, I wanted to offer some closing thoughts. At times in life, events feel “stormy”. We may feel like a personal event leaves a path of destruction in our lives. Something may happen to us that reveals a part of our character. These things are never easy. They provide an opportunity to rise up to a challenge. They can also scar us (and the environment around us) for life.
When I started this series, I thought I was going to highlight the Bible stories about storms. I probably will do something like that in the future. This series has had a certain feel to it. Anybody who works on a project long term will tell you each project has it’s own personality. This one feels like the introductory section of a book. Who knows. I hope you have enjoyed my series.
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