The latest issue of Wired arrived in my mailbox yesterday. Generally the people who write for the magazine frighten me — they are so smart and hip and ahead of the curve, something that a scholar of very ancient stuff hardly even aspires to. When I can understand what they are writing about, however, I am often fascinated. A story that caught my attention is entitled “Sky Wave” by Mike Olson. Around the world people have been noticing a new type of cloud that is being called undulatus asperatus. Here is a Gnu-license photo of one of these clouds; there are more dramatic images, but they are mostly covered by copyright. What immediately caught my attention in the Wired article was the subtitle: “Weather Geeks Are Championing a New Armageddon-Worthy Cloud.” The Bible appears in the sky yet again.
Back when I was doing the research on my (still unpublished) book on weather terminology in the Bible, one of the pitches I used to potential publishers was the upward inclination of religion. Ask any kindergarten-dropout where God is and the fingers inevitably reach skyward. From earliest times people have associated the divine with the sky. Among the Sumerians, keepers of the earliest recorded religion, the deity An, the sky-master, was the most ancient of deities. While the origins of religion will forever remain obscure, it is certain that they have a celestial component.
I have to confess to being in love with the sky. If I didn’t have to earn a living I would spend hours each day staring upward. It is the repository of endless potential and ineffable beauty. Clear skies remind me that no matter how far we might go upward, there will always be more of it ahead of us. Cloudy days provide a palette and a canvas for the imagination. Even the brilliant writers at Wired can be forgiven for a foray into the mythology of the sky. Its power over us is as endless as its very expanse.