I’ve been trying to avoid joining things because I’m already a member of too many organisations to give them all the attention they probably deserve. By joining an organisation you might feel obliged to participate in some way, so if you don’t, you feel guilty. However, I’ve recently joined an organisation that won’t make me feel guilty because I’m already doing what it stands for, every day. I’ve joined the Cloud Appreciation Society.
All that being a member of the society involves is appreciating the beauty of clouds and rejecting what its founder, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, calls ‘blue sky thinking’. In a previous thought for the day, I’ve spoken about my irritation with weather forecasters who apologise for wet weather. What is there to apologise for? And isn’t an unbroken blue sky boring?
The downside of cloud appreciation is a tendency to bump into things because you’re always looking up at the sky. It’s become a bit of an obsession. I rarely go out without my camera. I envy people who live in places where cloud formations we never see are common. Lenticular clouds can be seen near mountains. They sometimes resemble flying saucers. Mammatus clouds are weird, covering the sky with a layer of oppressive bulbous shapes. The scale of the King of Clouds, Cumulonimbus, which reaches up to ten kilometres into the sky, is awe-inspiring.
What has any of this to do with Humanism, you may ask. When asked what spirituality meant, an anonymous Humanist said, “To me, spirituality is what you feel when you’re uplifted by a piece of music or a beautiful sunset.” An appreciation of the beauties of Nature, including the skies, is one of the things that make us more fully human. It takes us above and beyond ourselves, quite literally, though not because we think that there’s a deity up there in the clouds, as some children imagine. Looking at the stars in a clear night sky can make us feel free; so can the sight of ever-changing clouds – water in the sky. They can help us forecast the weather, alter our mood, and stimulate our imagination.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote,
O! It is pleasant with a head of ease,
Just after sunset, or by moonlight skies,
To make the shifting clouds be what you please.