french weather

.a lesson in impermanence.

to discuss the weather in the english language, we say things like, “it is hot” or “it is windy.” when someone says “it is hot,” it’s implied by the speaker and understood by the listener that the condition is happening right now. so the missing part of the sentence would be, “it is hot right now.” does this matter? i mean, we all get it. we know when we make a statement about the weather without specifying when, we are talking about the present. so no, it doesn’t really matter. but it’s interesting to consider that this would be incorrect to say in the french language, not by leaving out the implied timeframe, but by using the altogether incorrect verb.

in french, c’est chaud literally translated means it is hot. but to correctly convey that the weather is hot, you would say il fait chaud, which literally translated means it is doing/making heat. that is because the weather is a condition that changes. it is not permanent. the missing part of the sentence implied in english is not enough in french. right in the middle of the sentence is a verb which points a neon finger to the fact that whatever is happening right now will not always be.

i learned this lesson more than 15 years ago, and i was reminded of it again in yesterday’s french class. but the value of this lesson goes beyond answering “how’s the weather?”

impermanence is not difficult to understand; it is the buddhist concept that all of “existence, without exception, is ‘transient, evanescent, inconstant’.” we know this is true because we watch children grow, ourselves age, and at some point we learn that all living things must die. because of this, no earthly situation is forever. this applies to both the good and the bad in life. and because of this, we resist it. we are deeply attached to the good things in life that we want to remain, and we protect ourselves from this impossibility with a very powerful denial. we know that we do this because from day to day we do not act as if we bear the knowledge that we won’t always be here, that things won’t always be as they are. our brains become accustomed to (mis)understanding the world this way, and that’s when our suffering happens.

we find it difficult to live in the moment, appreciating it for what it is. we dwell on the past, believing we have time to waste in over-analysis and regret. we dwell on the future, believing that we will get there, and that anxious attention will give us more control. we forget that we are looking through the lens of this moment, and that lens will change by tomorrow. for this reason we also mistakenly believe that a given condition is a bad condition. we forget that the condition, like the weather, is simply what is being done or made, right now.

when we don’t want it to rain and it does, we suffer. when we are hoping for rain and it doesn’t, we suffer. but we forget the point; that neither rain nor drought will last forever. even when we consider that a condition has ended, we concern ourselves with the chance that it will happen again. but that too would end. it is easy to become trapped in the vice of attachment, and perhaps impossible to ever escape it completely. certainly that’s likely for me, whose longest relationship in life so far has probably been with my anxiety, worrying about having control over the details of an unknown future. but sometimes, nestled in the middle of a sentence in a foreign language about the weather, a neon finger points the way to reminding us that all we can really know, all we can really have, is this moment. and this moment is pretty wonderful, when we remember to love the good, because it will go, and to let go of the bad, because it, too, shall pass.



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