…the outbreak was so bad yesterday all across the state of Alabama (and elsewhere), I doubt there’s anyone in the state that doesn’t have a close friend, relative or neighbor injured or killed in the storm.
My mother-in-law lost a cousin from up in Rainsville (in the northeast corner of the state).
As much as it seems we humans like to think there’s some orderliness to life, that there is a certain morality to cause and effect; Mother Nature time and again proves that life is about as predictable on a gross scale as the position of electron is predictable at a quantum level. There is no discernible rhyme nor reason to why this particular neighborhood, or even a particular house within a neighborhood, was destroyed and the lives within it lost. Just like there’s really no discernible rhyme nor reason why any particular child is afflicted with leukemia, and whether so afflicted, will survive.
The Cohen brothers movie, No Country for Old Men, offers perhaps the perfect artistic illustration of the utter randomness nesting at the core of life’s continuation. Hitman Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, kills both randomly and deliberately. To some that he considers killing, he offers a coin flip to determine their fate. When a West Texas gas-station owner unwittingly saves his life by choosing correctly on the coin toss, Anton tells him not to put his lucky quarter in his pocket where it will get mixed in with all the others. He tells him that quarter traveled all over the world to arrive at that place and time for the purpose of what had just transpired. The gas station owner doesn’t quite understand that he’d just been spared the fate of so many others whose paths happened to cross Anton’s.
Yesterday’s weather was about as indifferent to human life as was Anton in the movie. It killed or didn’t, and there was no apparent reason for its choice in any particular case. And no matter what the preachers might try to explain on Sunday about God’s purpose behind all this, there is no theological explanation that is not inherently illogical. As much as we like to pretend otherwise, life is controlled by forces so far beyond our capacity for understanding that it will always appear to be a random affair at the human level. There is cause and effect to everything that happens, but we can only very rarely catch a glimpse of its operation, and even then, only darkly, as if through a viewing glass.
If you wish to learn more about the storm’s devastation, the Birmingham News website, http://www.al.com/birmingham/ is a good place to go. The Wall Street Journal has a good piece on it, and the New York Times as well.