Out From The Eye of The Storm

Out From The Eye Of The Storm “Long as I remember
The rain been comin’ down
Clouds of myst’ry porin’
Confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages
Tryin’to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder
Who’ll stop the rain?”
(Credence Clearwater Revival)

I live on a barrier island outside of Charleston, South Carolina where retirees, aging hippies and “affluents” rub elbows with each other. A rusty old swing bridge connecting our island to the mainland gives it an isolated charm of bygone days. In this island paradise, it’s easy to feel protected from the ills of the world.

On September 21, 1989, we were blown from our safe haven into the swirling winds of Hurricane Hugo. The roof of our house pried off like the top of a sardine can; everything inside was drenched. Many homes were demolished, cast to the four winds. In the height of the storm, our bridge spun wildly and toppled into the water. We lost our connection to the mainland, we lost our home, and, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we “weren’t in Kansas anymore.”
We lived a pillar-to-post existence for several months. Doors and hearts were opened to us.  Victor Hugo wrote, “Great perils have the beauty that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.” The outpouring of love from all parts of the country lifted our spirits and helped us appreciate that “home” is not a place, but is where the heart is.

“What hurts you, blesses you,” says Rumi. Through our ordeals, we were ripped from our complacent existence and challenged to grow and change. We developed courage and resourcefulness as we made-do with less. We appreciated things that we had taken for granted: running water, electricity and fresh food. Though weathered and weary, we became more open to love and faith and hope.

Crisis can be mobilizing or immobilizing. Developmental theorists suggest that we grow through adversity. Stretched beyond our comfort zones we become more creative and resourceful. Faced with mortality, we appreciate life more fully. Through suffering—our passion–we develop com-passion, suffering with others. We find meaning in suffering and become survivors, not victims.

Hurricane Hugo changed us for the better. We crossed our bridge and extended support to others in need. Yet, as time wore on, so did the lessons borne by the storm. We returned to our complacent existence, focusing on our little lives, erecting fences to keep neighbors out…until the next storm came.

On September 11, 2001 our country was ripped from its complacent existence into the darkest of storms when terrorists felled the Twin Towers. The threat of annihilation brought us to our knees. The upwelling of generosity and sacrifice in the aftermath of the crisis was, sadly, supplanted by wrath and vengeance as we struck back at the “enemy.”  Our “eye for an eye” mentality turned a blind eye to suffering and we lost sight of our own evil nature.

The march of apocalyptic events, from wars to earthquakes, tsunami, fires and floods continue to claim thousands of lives across the globe. “Who’ll stop the rain?” we ask.

According to ancient myth, he word “hurricane” is named after a Mayan storm god,“Huracan” who visits the wrath of the gods upon humanity with storms and floods. Yet, Huracan is both a creator and destroyer god. Could it be that the gods bring suffering to us in order to help us grow?

While visiting Peru I learned of an Incan god, Viracocha: According to Joseph Campbell, “His tiara is the sun; he grasps a thunderbolt in either hand; and from his eyes descend, in the form of tears, the rains that refresh the life of the valleys of the world.” Campbell suggests that one of the most extraordinary and moving traits of Viracocha is his tears. As Viracocha brings forth life he acknowledges that, with life comes suffering and death. Embracing this divine paradox, he weeps. And the tears of his eyes become the seminal waters of life. “Finding new life through the acceptance of death is the paradoxical solution,” Campbell says. It is one of life’s great mysteries.

Likewise, the Sufi poet, Rumi reminds us “Blood must flow For the garden to flower.”

As war cries resound across the land today, we face the threat of total annihilation. Ecological destruction, broken families, lost souls are brought into our homes each day on the news. It is easy to tune out and turn off, retreating to our narcissistic islands, closing the bridge. In our isolation, we view “them” as the enemy;” they” are the problem. We project our darkness onto the world. We forget Christ’s injunction to “remove the timber from our own eye before we remove the mote from our brother’s.”

Depth psychology calls us to examine our projections. In the process, we discover that “out there” is “inside us.”  According to Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us!” We are destroying ourselves and all of creation. War, hurricanes, ecological destruction, broken families are begotten by us–begotten by our own fear, prejudice, hatred, and greed. When we open our eyes to this reality our hearts will be broken. James Hillman says that “a terrible love breaks out in mourning.” Once broken, our hearts expand to embrace the suffering world.

In the end, the rain cannot be stopped. Hurricanes, ecological disasters, war and rumors of war may be “an indelible condition of the soul, given with the cosmos” (Hillman). Yet, as we weep over our plight, the tears clear our vision, and sow the seeds of love and compassion. We are called to open our arms and hearts to tend to the soul of the world.

It takes a far view to appreciate the beauty and symmetry of a hurricane.  From a distance, the chaos of the swirling clouds leads to a defined center. Likewise, depth psychology teaches us that a descent into chaos may be necessary for growth. C.G. Jung calls this the individuation process. As our egos are torn asunder, we become aware of our complexes and projections. In the process we can be transformed, drawn toward our center–our true Selves.

I am interested in the healing power of labyrinths, perhaps because the labyrinth so closely resembles a hurricane.  Both have torturous turns leading to a well-defined center. Within each, we often feel lost and confused. The twisting path, in and out, back and forth, can be frightening. Yet, if we remain on the path, we reach the center. As with the ancient design of the labyrinth, there seems to be a divine order to storms and strife in life.  Faith and a distant view help illuminate this plan. I believe that we are cast into storms, not to be torn apart, but to be drawn toward the center, to discover that there is a “center.”  After we rest, we are drawn back into the storm, weathered, but all the wiser for the journey, and assured that there is a “center.”