top of page


Kostis Velonis / Κωστής Βελώνης

Genius and the Contingencies of Weathering

In the Gospel of John, there is a scene where Jesus talks with Nicodemus, during nighttime, about the existence of God. They both stand on a rooftop in Jerusalem, and Jesus addresses Nicodemus, explaining that God is a spirit, just as today we talk sometimes rather lightly with a friend or two, at a backyard, on a rooftop or a balcony in a neighborhood of Athens, late in the evening. There is another very familiar scene in summertime: we are on a beach and watch the constellations, or  we enjoy watching the sun going down as the stars emerge on the sky in the countryside. What Jesus and Nicodemus talk about, according to the Gospel, has to do with the experience of spirit, which can be felt through a description of wind:

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) [1]

We can assume that as they talk there is a light wind blowing, and its breeze is immediately felt by both persons. The Jewish word ruah is the equivalent of the Greek πνεῦμα (pneuma) and the Latin spiritus, and all three terms mean the breath of wind. But there is also a related word about the essence of spirit: ψυχή (psychē) in Greek, anima in Latin. The fascinating thing about it is that neither here can we avoid the presence of wind, since anima derives from the Greek ἄνεμος (anemos). While in religious consciousness one can easily understand why the wind is a useful and handy metaphor for the existence of God, of equal interest is the animist character that the wind can impose on the tectonic immobility of matter. In art and its applications, this can be summarized in the dynamics of life itself, with the description and performance of movement, which is also a product of wind. What I would like to describe in this brief presentation is the relation of wind with our demon, through a troubled ecology – what one might call “weathering”.

But first let me return to the breath of wind, in the sense of an experience that eludes us when we try to define it as a form and a magnitude, resisting all our attempts at encircling or shaping it. I do not intend to set this orientation of my thinking towards the wind and its alterations strictly within the limits of the Judeo-Christian theology; rather, I would like to redefine it through the vicissitudes of weather, the principle of motion and its products, such as animation or even slapstick aesthetics. How does this natural phenomenon in the Greek- Roman thought, with the deities of winds and the origins of gods, relate to fate and its ability to spread chaos in an ecological and political context?

Concerning fate, chaos and the symbolic representation of wind, or winds in general, which can be disastrous or beneficial, I would add that the common base of it all is a reflection on contingency in human life. This position enables us to draw a wider conclusion about the principle of indeterminacy in the movement of matter, and to see the essence of wind in philosophical terms, as well as through a repositioning of the didactic reading of environmental issues. This kind of thinking combines the literal blow of the wind with contingency, which is opposed to mechanical necessity and the deterministic chain of cause and effect. The wind here is revealed in its invisible apperception, and in this sense it eludes the coarseness of a world so eager to make everything visible and predictable. So, is it possible that free human will is itself dependent upon weather conditions that affect individual sentiments? This leads us to an interpretation that remains open, to an acceptance of the complexity of decisions that affect the kinetics and motivation of human nature, and may even include the Epicurean notion of individual deviation in nature, “when the atoms are being drawn down through the void by their property of weight, at absolutely unpredictable times and places, [and] deflect slightly from their straight course, to a degree that could be described as no more than a shift of movement”. [2]

The reading of wind and its symbolisms in the structuring of movement and its impregnation with life provides an explanation equally foreign to a narrow technical ecological view about the formation of nature. Wind pollination is the best proof of this, yet every kind of pollination requires movement and the rustle of wings inside the flowers. In my attempt at discerning the charismatic aspects of contingency, I cannot, once again, ignore the tectonic constitution of animism, I cannot stop searching the changing plasticity of “weather” and its ability to define incompatible manifestations of the sensible world. This changing plasticity has a direct impact on a series of weather-dependent activities – “weather permitting”, as we often say in the language of shipping (“If the weather is good enough to allow the sailing of the boat”). [3]

All this variability of weather can be included in an “anemophilic network” that, along with the movement, the direction, and the force of a wind, it also recognizes the weather conditions, where the wind is of utmost importance. This experience of being touched by the wind that is poetically highlighted in the Bible, how is it translated today, with the emergence of diversity and the awareness of climate change? At this point, we can define weather “not so much as a noun, but as a verb, ‘to weather’, in its present continuous conjugation, ‘weathering’.” [4] Through weathering, how can one challenge the so-called “mood”, this surge of temper that surrounds us and is unchangeable when it happens? Do we realize that we are affected by weather, but at the same time, as a reflection of the impact of the weather upon us, that in the last instance we might be the weather itself? On a wider scale, can we avoid the remark of Astrida Neimanis and Jennifer Mae Hamilton that weathering is “a particular way of understanding how bodies, places and the weather are all inter-implicated in our climate changing world”? [5]

It is interesting to recall that weathering in its original scientific definition describes the breaking down of rocks and minerals on the surface of the Earth – among others, water, acids, plants and animals, and gradual changes in temperature are all agents of weathering. On the educational site of the National Geographic Research Library, we read: “Once a rock has been broken down, a process called erosion transports the bits of rock and mineral away. No rock on Earth is hard enough to resist the forces of weathering and erosion.” [6]

Can we formulate the connotations of corruption and erosion in terms pertaining to other fields? Even more so, when we acknowledge that they touch our own person, our innermost core, since “not all bodies weather the same; weathering is a situated phenomenon embedded in social and political worlds. This understanding of weathering also asks that we expand how we understand ‘the weather’. Weather is pervasive in ways that makes distinctions between the meteorological and the social rather leaky, not unlike the much-critiqued nature/culture divide”. [7]

If we are always weathering, that doesn’t mean that we are always weathering in the same way. [8] The common element is the charm of the unattended, the unexpected and the unpredictable in the windblow. To some, the windblow will reveal their connection with the Biblical spirit, the search of the divine; to others, the awakening of a different methodology of wind, love as breathed by Sappho in her verses:

“Eros has shaken my mind, wind sweeping down the mountain on oaks.” (Frag. 26. 9)

So, we relinquish ourselves to the contingency and variability of an anemophilic network, and we start thinking about weather. I would add that weathering has to do with sensitive ecologies structured in our contemporary, vulnerable Anthropocene. If in the past the experience of weather could be predicted and limited in the natural cycle of seasons, today changes in the atmosphere are unexpected and disastrous, and climate change poses a threat that calls for our resistance. The possibility of an in-depth information through the numerous weather forecasts doesn’t solve the problem. Weathering has also to do with our psyche, as has always been the case, yet now the vicissitudes and changes are more abrupt, more threatening and, above all, better known. Even weather channels and applications know how to intensify our anxiety.


Let me repeat that this anxiety may affect our innermost core. There is a fragment of a poetry collection that highlights my interest in the wind as a kind of permanent anxiety. What Eugène Guillevic says, in his poem entitled “Terraqué”, is compelling because at the same time it is something very common:

Il y a quelqu’un dans le vent. – There is someone in the wind. [10]

Is there something common between the demon and ourselves – what we call daimon heautou, “demon of the self”? This “someone in the wind” invoked by Guillevic, could it be our own individual demon?


In De Deo Socratis (On the God of Socrates), Apuleius (125-170 AD), a Platonist orator and philosopher, argues that a demon is assigned to every one of us, guiding us discretely. [11]

Socrates is an extreme example, because his philosophical quality enabled him to know and honor his demon, and to entertain a healthy communication with it. Our native demon, Genius, is born with us, feeds from us, and protects us, until the end of our days. The wind that we feel on our forehead, when we experience cold or heat, and make this peculiar gesture, as if we want to keep this sensation or get rid of it, is related to the demon having a kind of contact or effect upon us. We may be upset, we may have had some unexpected idea, we may feel awkward by something we saw, we may have thought of a solution to a problem, or we may have been impressed by something; in any case, this gesture towards our forehead is a gesture of appeasement, of recognition that our demon is a witness to this process. Genius has to do with our forehead, in these moments where the variability of the wind gives us this piece of information – and I guess that for those of us that still have their hair the feeling is even more intense. Besides, this is a way to understand the direction of the wind in art, in painting and sculpture, in the sense that if life is represented in the works, inspiration is not only expressed in a body in motion, but also in the movement of hair around the forehead. [12] Along with clothes, this is a way to register the wind, as a form of historical weathervane, no less.

Insofar as wind, in its etymological relation with anima, corresponds to the Greek word psychē, we see how dominant it is in the conduct of “weather” and how it contributes to our thoughts and acts through weathering. Consequently, our δαιμόνιον, our spirit and intelligence, is determined by this vital course of Genius, which is something that transcends us, exceeds us, and eludes us, just like the wind that is always invisible but real, nonetheless.

According to Giorgio Agamben, “this most intimate and personal god is also that which is most impersonal in us; it is the personalization of what, in us, goes beyond and exceeds us. If it seems to be identified with us, it is only in order to reveal itself immediately afterward as more than us, and to show us that we are more and less than ourselves. Comprehending the conception of man implicit in Genius means understanding that man is not only an ego and an individual consciousness, but rather that from birth to death he is accompanied by an impersonal, pre-individual element”. [13]

This pre-individual element, could it be perceived in great emotions? And what might be the correspondences with fractiousness and the sudden changes in weather? When we feel enchanted by heavy rain, by the blasting and howling of the wind, when we encounter the unexpected, we find ourselves moved.

“Even before we wonder at the world outside us, what awes and stuns us is the presence within us of a part that is forever immature, infinitely adolescent, and hesitant to cross the threshold of any individuation.” [14]

There is something unknown when we deal with ourselves, and I hope that it doesn’t pertain solely to psychoanalysis. This element resists stubbornly to interpretation, as it is a “zone of unknowability” that becomes even more important when in everyday practice contingency affects our destiny. However, calculated our life, this pre-individual element, which is dependent upon Genius and not upon our ego (especially that conventional ego of our IDs and CVs), cannot be recorded and emancipated. On the other hand, the existence of Genius can be revealed in a crossing relation with weather. The “creative melancholy” brought to us by a change in weather activates our relationship with the demon, while this crossing relation is itself marked by the seasons of the year. Here, autumn would probably be the most popular choice, but in fact every season brings out a different view of the demon.

And while in Greek thought two demons coexist in every person, a benevolent and a malevolent one, Horace argues that in fact there is only one, unstable and capricious, now luminous, and now dark – same as the weather.

Our atlas of weather is like the self-portrait of the famous engraving of a map of the world that represents the figure of a jester, a medieval fool, covering the whole world: the Fool’s Cap Map of the World (end of 16th century). This map, dressed in the traditional garb of a court jester with a double-tipped cap – peak, bell –, might have an association with the most extreme weather phenomena: fierce winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, dust- and hailstorms, heavy rainfalls. [15]

If “weathering means learning to live with the changing conditions of rainfall, drought, heat, thaw and storm as never separable from the ‘total climate’ of social, political, and cultural existence of bodies”, [16] then our personal mood could not be unrelated to our own atlas of weather. What if, in the end, it is not Genius that changes, but our relationship with it, for better or for worse – and this variability is itself a result of our relation to weather?

Therefore, our fate is formed in parallel with weather, and Genius, or Juno, as a second self, similarly reacts to our own vicissitudes, having been previously exposed to weather, waiting for us to react and, depending on our mood, to be played accordingly. Against variability, good and bad luck, what matters is how we deal with these emotions and what are the reactions of Genius. All thing considered, our relationship with the demon concerns us as a slapstick condition, in the sense of a view of life rhythmed and tempered as a relation of action and reaction. Sometimes we will slip on the banana peel, we will fall and cry, and others we will fall alright, but we will only laugh about it.


1 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (Τὸ πνεῦμα ὅπου θέλει πνεῖ, καὶ τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ ἀκούεις, ἀλλ ̓ οὐκ οἶδας πόθεν ἔρχεται καὶ ποῦ ὑπάγει· οὕτως ἐστὶ πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Πνεύματος) (John 3: 8).

2 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura), translated, with an introduction and notes by Martin Ferguson Smith (Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett, 1969), Book II: 216, 40.

3 In this sense, when someone, for example, wants to rent a boat, one will sign a contract mentioning among others: “The itinerary is weather permitted. In case of adverse weather conditions determined by the captain prior to the charter embarkation or /and disembarkation will take place in the home port of Athens”. From the MYBA contract (standard contract between the charter company and the charterer): “The captain shall comply with all reasonable orders given to him by the CHARTERER regarding the management operation
and movement of the Yacht, wind, weather and other circumstances permitting” (MYBA Captains’ Guidelines).

4 Lindsay Bremner, “Editorial”, Weathering, Weathermaking, e-flux Architecture, “Survivance”, June 2021,

5 Astrida Neimanis & Jennifer Hamilton, “Weathering”, Feminist Review 118, no. 1 (2018): 81.

6 “Weathering”, National Geographic Research Library, weathering

7 Neimanis & Hamilton, op. cit.

8 Sria Chatterjee, “The Arts, Environmental Justice, and the Ecological Crisis”, British Art Studies, Issue 18,

9 Sappho, Poems and Fragments, trans. Stanley Lombardo, Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002. In Greek: Ἔρος δ ̓ ἐτίναξέ μοι φρένας, ὠς ἄνεμος κὰτ ὄρος δρύσιν ἐμπέτων.

10 Eugène Guillevic, “Terraqué”, Poèmes, Gallimard, Paris, 1942.

11 Modern Greek edition of De Deo Socratis: Το δαιμόνιον του Σωκράτη, Roes Publications, Athens, 2020.

12 “It is pleasing to see some movement in hair, locks, boughs, leafy fronds, and garments. As I said, I myself take pleasure in seeing seven different movements of the hair: hair should twist as if trying to break loose from its ties and rippling in the air like flames, some of it weaving in and o u t like vipers in a nest, some swelling here, some there.” From Alberti’s famous Libro della pittura, an excerpt also used by Aby Warburg in Renewal of Pagan Antiquity: Contributions to the Cultural History of the European Renaissance, translated by David Britt, introduction by Kurt W. Forster, Los Angeles: Getty Center for the History of
Art and the Humanities, 1999 (Warburg refers there to the deities of wind in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus).

13 Giorgio Agamben, Profanations, Zone Books, translated by Jeff Fort, 11.

14 Op. cit., 15

15 The irrational element and the stupidity connected with the presence of wind could also find an advocate in Baudelaire. In his late fragments, he declares: “I have cultivated my hysteria with joy and terror. Now, I am continually overcome by vertigo, and today, Jan. 23, 1862, I was given a special warning: I felt the wind of the wing of imbecility pass over me.” Charles Baudelaire, Late Fragments. Flares, My Heart Laid Bare, Prose Poems, Belgium Disrobed, translated by Richard Sieburth, Yale Universirty Press, 2022.

16 Neimanis & Hamilton, op. cit., 82.

Velonis 02.jpg

August Kotzsch
Fliederblüten, 1870

bottom of page