Where’s the Intent in Nature’s Accidental Wrath?

The scream of the NOAA Weather Radio, alerting me to a tropical storm warning for Hot Springs Village, awakened me completely at 3:31 a.m. Only moments earlier, vague noises emanating from my Echo Dot in the next room prodded me out of a deep sleep. Those vague noises, I discovered a few minutes later, were Alexa’s prelude to the screech from the weather radio; her “notification” that NOAA has something to say.

I suppose I could have turned over and tried to go back to sleep, or tried going back to bed, but the bone-jarring howl of the radio was enough to shock my system into full-on alert. The noise turned on the spigot of my adrenaline valve; I found it impossible to turn it off even fifteen minutes later.

Once out of bed, I further fueled my adrenaline rush with coffee and online news, the latter which told me that Hurricane Laura had made landfall as a strong category four storm two hours earlier at Cameron, Louisiana. Forecasters had predicted the storm surge could reach twenty feet or more and could reach inland many, many miles. We won’t have a clear idea of just how powerful and destructive the storm’s impact was on the coastline until at least the early hours of daylight a couple of hours away; probably much later.

I saw a comment attributed to a NOAA scientist, suggesting Little Rock could experience significant power outages due to high winds later this morning and into the afternoon and evening hours. After yesterday morning’s loss of power (due to a lightning strike on Entergy’s equipment), I hoped we’d seen the last of storm-related power loss for a while. I guess that depends on how one defines “a while.” During the last day, and even during the last ten minutes, I have lost internet connectivity several times; if the power goes, so does my internet and my phones. Like so many others, I have become addicted to the communication lifeline provided by internet connections; it has become like electricity and oxygen and public roadways: socialism’s grip tightening around our necks. {For anyone who does not know me, that last little comment was sarcasm speaking.}

If I were a believer in the idea of a vengeful god or vengeful nature, I might say COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura and the California wildfires and the dozens and dozens of other catastrophes and calamities inflicted upon humankind (and Mother Earth) in the recent past have been retribution. Or punishment. Or something else visited upon us in exchange for our misdeeds and impropriety. But I am not a believer; so, in my view, it’s simply richly coincidental.

Yet, I wonder: am I truly as certain as I think I am that everything is, essentially, an accident of nature? When I listen to old Cat Stevens music, I feel an old— almost buried—sense of childish wonder and awe at the world around me. Morning Has Broken and The Wind are an overtly religious songs, but I think they capture childish awe and wonder more than they affirm a religious world-view.  But I often wonder whether the distance between awe and acceptance of religious interpretations of the universe is as great as I think it should be. There is, for me, an uncomfortable bridge between my sense of awe at the magic of the universe and others’ sense that the universe is somehow the brainchild of an all-knowing, all-powerful deity. I say it’s an uncomfortable bridge because I think my interpretation that “it’s just an expression of physical laws” is as faith-based as their “it’s the work of a celestial magician.”

I do wander, don’t I? And I wonder. There are no answers. Only questions that leave us empty and aching. I think I’d rather be empty and aching that full of something I find offensive and odious or blindly silly.

I hope the people in the path of Hurricane Laura escape with both their lives and their livelihoods.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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