Robert Alter’s Hurricane
November 30, 2008
Robert Alter wrote a chapter that I quote from his book “The Transformative Power of Crisis”. Here it goes.
Imagine a hurricane on a weather map. Let’s call that ‘Hurricane You’. Hurricane You has 3 parts. The outermost part is a ring of moving energy in the form of circling wind and rain. The middle part is another ring of circling wind and rain. the innermost part is the eye where all is calm and still.
This your very own hurricane. Your outermost ring is your life: the ever-moving, ever-changing, often unpredictable and seemingly random series of events and experiences that happen to you in your life. Some are big, some are small; some are pleasant and some are unpleasant. These events and experiences started happening to you at birth, are happening to you right this moment and will continue to happen to you until you die.
The middle ring of Hurricane You is the ring of your thoughts and feeling and moods and inner states. From the moment you wake upto the moment you fall asleep, these circle around and succeed each other, morning to night, cradle to grave.
Sometimes the inner ring of our thoughts and feelings is connected to the outer ring of events and experiences, and the 2 rings circle together for a while. For example, when we get a raise of a hug or a new car or a new friend on the outer ring, on the inner ring we feel happy, we like life, we have pleasant thoughts and a pleasant inner state. Then we get fired of we get snubbed or we get sick or get a scratch on the new car and we feel sad, upset angry at life and have unpleasant thoughts and an unpleasant inner state. Our thoughts and feelings are in sync with external events.
And sometimes we have thoughts and feelings and moods and inner states that are totally independent of the events and experiences circling around sus at the time. For example, we might be sitting with out beloved on a beach on Aruba and still be in the darkest and foulest of moods ever seen in the Caribbean. The two rings may circle at different speeds, even on different axes.
For most people, the two circling rings are all there is, and they live their lives spinning along with them, and they die. Some people however hear about the immermost part of the hurricane, the eye and they start doing things in their lives in order to get to the eye. They learn how to go to a part of the storm that is not stormy, where they can just watch the storm, totally undisturbed by it, in a state of perfect peace and unmodified awareness. This is where the consciousness, awareness, the knower, the innter witness resides.
After reaching this inner state of just observing, there do come questions…
questions like why…??
Nature balances itself out through karmic processes as the ones we’ve just witnessed. You are just the observer until it is your turn to live out a traumatic experience yourself. Someday Shakespeare’s line will make sense, ‘All the world’s at stage’, but till then play your part with gumption. I will play my part of the insensitive asshole.