Storm Callum is upon us today, here in England. And it is indeed pretty wet and windy right now.
But I’m wondering why these weather systems are increasingly being given names. Do they need to be given names? To give a storm system a name is to also give it its own personality and even purpose, a bit like last winter’s Beast From The East, which returned after having departed. They become entities in themselves when they’re given names. They become creatures, animals, spirits. The natural world is being re-animated, and populated with magical new lifeforms. Ours is becoming a newly demon-haunted world.
If we’re going to name these storm systems, why not use the names of the old Norse gods, and call them Storm Odin, or Storm Thor, or Storm Frigg. Today’s Friday, which is Frigg’s day, so shouldn’t Storm Callum really be called Storm Frigg? Or just Frigg? And shouldn’t the weather forecasters tell us, “Stay indoors, because Frigg is coming!” And then all the old Norse gods will have come back to life.
And if we are re-animating storm systems, we’ve already re-animated tobacco smoke. It’s become a magical vapour, which can go through walls, and hunt down children in their beds. Tobacco smoke has become an entity, a spirit.
Another one is the re-animation of the whole world, as Gaea. And the virginal Gaea is a goddess who needs to be protected from greedy, rampaging human rapists.
Christianity and science dispelled these old gods and goddesses, but now they’re coming back. We are being encouraged to engage in magical thinking. We are being encouraged to believe that our diseases are not caused by bacteria or viruses, but by tobacco smoke, or alcohol, or fast food. Carbon dioxide is no longer just a gas composed of carbon and oxygen, but has become an entity armed with the magical power, in the tiniest quantities, of being able to heat up the entire world. And we have become children being told fairy stories – only fairy stories we must believe. And we are being told the stories by the highest authorities in the land.
It’s perhaps why both Science and Christianity are in retreat. We’re seeing the return of the old pagan world. It was one filled with spirits and demons and fairies and goblins. And ours is being repopulated with them. And both Science and Christianity are being pushed out of the door. We tend to see Science and Christianity as in opposition. But perhaps they’re not, and never were.
For myself, Storm Callum is just a spinning mass of air. It possesses momentum. And it’s come rolling across the ocean like a wheel, or a spinning top. And it’s no more a living thing than wheels or spinning tops are.
In my view, living things work to stay alive. They have to expend energy in order to acquire energy: like wolves must hunt in order to catch deer. And while spinning storm systems can gain energy, I don’t see them expending any energy in order to acquire that energy. Most of their energy is acquired gratis from the Sun, as a gift. And most of the energy that powers other natural processes, such as rivers, is also derived gratis from the Sun, as a gift, as it evaporates water into the atmosphere, from which it falls later as rain.
But plants are living things because they must construct and deploy leaves to capture the sunlight that arrives gratis from the Sun. And they have to convert the energy of sunlight into energy stored in sugar. And the animals that eat the sugar-filled plants must expend energy in grazing on these plants. Living things must work to stay alive. And storms and rivers are not living things because they perform no work of this kind, even if they can be yoked by watermills and windmills.
So I don’t think that Storm Callum merits being given a name, however energetic it might be. I think that only living things merit being named. And perhaps only merit being given names if they can also answer to those names, and come when they’re called..