A Rainbow Cloud in Nature and a Dark Cloud in Politics: The Series on Awe


Searching for those rare rainbows…

rainbow cloud



Have you ever seen what is called a “rainbow cloud”? Probably not, because they seem to be very rare. My wife and I had not until last Tuesday as we were driving into Oklahoma on our way to our beloved prior home of Houston.

In a rainbow cloud, you see a portion of a rainbow in unusual structures due to a special contribution of cloud condescension and iridescence, producing a colorful optical phenomena sort of like that seen in soap bubbles on a water surface. Rain is not involved.

When I sent out our picture of the rainbow cloud we took while driving to family, friends, and colleagues, the typical reactions were: “Whoa!”; “Wow”: “Spectacular”; “Magnificent”; Spiritual Awe”; “Amazing”; “Beautiful”. I have never received such responses to a photo. No wonder we were in awe when we saw it out of the blue.

Rainbows of any sort have been traditional symbols of good fortune, diversity, and inclusion, even a “pot of gold” at the end. We were on our way to visit 2 of our pots of gold granddaughters in Houston and California, so we hope this is an omen of our drive and their future.

Is not a cloud rainbow exactly what we need in politics now? On the same day, the speaker of the House of Representatives was ousted by his own party. This event is unprecedented in the history of our political parties. As in the Chinese symbol of crisis, it is both a danger and an opportunity. I suppose most any major event that occurs for the first time evokes some sense of awe.

In our field of psychiatry, we often see patients that seem to be stuck in their mental disturbance. We used to feel that way about those diagnosed as having schizophrenia, but that proved to be wrong. We now experience some awe in our research on psychedelics. Perhaps that is also true of what I call our social psychopathologies like anti-Semitism, which seems resistant to any intervention so far, but has not yet been medicalized.

Always look for the rainbows! Sometimes you may even see a cloud rainbow in the sky or in everyday life.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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