King Lear adapts

There's some weather blowing in.

For the next two weeks there will be a lot of press about global warming. The reason: a world climate conference in The Hague from Nov. 13 to 24. Sponsored by the United Nations, it's a continuation of the one held in Kyoto, Japan, three years ago, the sixth such world gathering. Don't glaze over at the official title: "Parties under the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change."

We need to take this conference seriously. As Peter Spotts reports (see story), the world is heating up. Scientists don't know why, but it is no longer debatable. As a species, we will have to make adjustments, "adapt," to use the scientific term.

One of my favorite scenes in Shakespeare is when Lear, the crotchety, prideful, and ultimately disillusioned old king, finds himself beneath the open sky braving a storm that "Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,/ Or swell the curled waters 'bove the main."

Humiliated by the treatment of his royal person at the hands of his selfish daughters, Lear flees the castle he once ruled. His wounded pride gives no matter-mind to the elements. "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!/ You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout/ Till you have drench'd our steeples, [drown'd] the cocks!"

The storm teaches Lear one of life's most important lessons - compassion. He cares for the poor simple fool, his court jester, who alone follows him out into the storm. Lear bows to nature and offers a tender hand to his jester by entering a dry cave for shelter.

Braving the elements by ignoring a warming globe, we will be humbled as a species. Like Lear, best we learn we are not the center of the world before we have to seek out dry caves for their cool darkness.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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