When It Rains
Something changes when we think things through.
I once met a man who told me that he found it strange when people did not cry during rainstorms. He found rain bleak, and saddening, and found himself sad whenever rain was falling, and although he did not cry himself he wanted to — “to let the feelings go free”. I listened as he explained his views on the statistics of this response to the weather: most people, he felt, ought to be sad whenever it rained, and given the broad range of emotional expression in the public at large, there should be at least some people who cried when the weather took that particular turn. But his experience had showed him that this was not the case, that very few people cried at the rain, and he was left with a double disjunct between his predictions and the world as it was in fact: either everyone was keeping their feelings to themselves, or he was missing something about others’ experiences.
I asked the man whether he had considered that other people had a different experience of the rain, and he told me that he had met lots of people who told him that they enjoyed the rain, found rainstorms fascinating, appreciated the weather in all its variety, and so on. But he could not make sense of this, and still felt that most people should be sad when it rained, and was convinced that at least some of those people should therefore be openly in tears.
Maybe this seems odd. Certainly some people are sad when it rains, but certainly also some people are pleased to see rainfall — farmers, gardeners, people who enjoy seeing the seasons change, anyone who likes to sit quietly listening to the sounds of raindrops on window panes. Some people celebrate the rain by dressing up and going out to splash in puddles or try out a new umbrella. There are festivals dedicated to patron saints of rainfall, gods worships for storms, bible stories about rain causing floods that cleanse the whole world — to say that we all have a negative experience of rain is about as accurate as saying that we all have a negative experience of daylight, or winter, or birthdays, or the stars at night.
I look back on my conversation with the man who was sad when it rained, and I see a person who is sincerely but mistakenly projecting his own experience onto others — and yet that sincerity is relevant still, at least because it shows a person trying his best to make sense of other people’s experience, other people’s behaviour.
There are many ways to experience the world; we chose our experiences when we chose our categorisation of the things around us as bad, beneficial, unwanted, pointless, destructive, positive, rewarding, imperfect, acceptable, and so on. We get to choose to be happy or sad depending on our acceptance or otherwise of the facts of what surrounds us, to the extend that at least some small part of our everyday experience can be made better by our allowance that the world will be whatever way it choses to be without much care for our wishes. When it rains, it rains because the clouds are full of water and need to be empty, and we get sad or happy about that depending on our needs, wishes, plans, habits, beliefs, attitude, and so on.
What struck me most about the man I met was the fact that he was honest: he was considering his own experience, trying to make sense of his own assumptions, wondering why he felt the way he did about this particular sort of weather, and doing his best to come to terms with the fact that his predictions about other’s behaviour did not match the world around him at all.
If we are honest about our experiences, we can begin to change them — maybe we will still be sad sometimes, but we will be able to chose to accept and even celebrate the things that may otherwise seem to be fundamentally against us. This is true for each of us individually, and it is true for all of us together: we can change the world by choosing to change our view of it.
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