There was quite a windstorm that blew through here yesterday. It reminded me rather forcefully of Weathering the Psalms. Firstly, it blew loudly enough to wake me up a few times in the night. When I finally climbed out of bed, listening to the blustery concussions beating the house, I remembered that the first chapter of Weathering was about the willful wind. That’s not just a poetic phrase—according to the Psalter, the wind does the will of God. Like much of the weather, it’s weaponized by the Bible. Seeing what the wind can do, the reasons for this should be obvious. Hurricanes are tremendous windstorms (although unknown in the land of the Bible), but they are also known for their tremendous rain. Tornadoes, however, are pure wind and are among the most destructive forces on the planet. (Before people came along, anyway.) Wind commands respect. We’re a very long way from taming it.
When thinking of meteorology, it’s easy to forget wind. Rain and snow are pretty obvious. Even desert heat is impossible to ignore. The wind, invisible and powerful, is perhaps the most godlike of weather’s many features. To the ancient way of thought, it was also inexplicable. We understand the earth’s rotation and temperature differentials between water and land and the uneven heating between the surface of the ground and air aloft. The ancients understood it more to be a pure act of God. The wind certainly can seem spiteful. It’s not difficult to attribute agency to it. Such things go through my mind when the howling is loud enough to wake me.
Invisibility suggests power. It wasn’t so much the “monotheism” of Israel that made it distinctive as it was the inability to see its deity. That lack of visual confirmation not only necessitates a kind of faith, but it also veils a threat. We humans tend to be visually focused. We fear the dark. Foggy, misty settings can give a story an atmosphere of foreboding. Placing the divine out of site only enhances supernatural powers. So it is with the wind. As is to be expected, the windstorm has mostly blown itself out by now—moving on to another location until the temperature differentials even out and its howl becomes more of a whimper. It will have done its work, however, for even as it passed through it brought to mind the proper respect for that which cannot be seen.