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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Ellen Goodman and God

Says Goodman in her column of today, "The unifying force of catastrophe":

“The stories [from the tsunami], singular in their pain, were universal in their common human denominator. The unimaginable horror of children snatched from their parents by a wave. The dazed survivors counting their losses up to a collective 150, 000. The disappearance of whole known worlds, villages, families.

So too, the search for understanding was as universal, if perhaps as futile, as the search for bodies. Some survivors talked about the tsunami as an ‘act of God’ – as it God were the fine print on an insurance policy. Others, like the woman whose daughter rode out the tsunami on a tourist boat off Phuket, talked about that too as an act of God – as if He’d rolled the dice in their favor.

Indeed, survivors described “miracles” until that word sounded like nothing but a synonym for incomprehensible, random luck. Or perhaps miracle is the answer when you run down the list of possibilities and hit “none of the above.”

Once again, unified in the face of catastrophe, we hit the pause button on our own man-made conflicts. We were caught up short in the midst of endless squabbling over our own differences.

She gives examples of how the world has rallied to aid victims, yet observes,

But I also watch us inch back to ‘normal.’ On Page 1, the fury of nature shares space again with the folly of humanity. The victims of nature make room for the victims of man-made conflict.

Now, to comment: It’s too bad that Goodman feels that a search for understanding is “futile.” Perhaps she’s looking in the wrong place. But I think she also misunderstands “acts of God” (not that I don't, but I acknowledge that they exist and that they are indeed incomprehensible, as we are humans, and God is God. Yet they are certainly not "random."

Goodman’s observations about the universal human condition are salient, yet it is unfortunate that she comes up empty in search of understanding. Her words:

I am no theologian. In my business we prefer to avoid questions without answers. [Perhaps that’s a problem?] We are shy about inquiries that lurch between the profound and the naive. We set aside the sort of wondering that sets us wandering.

Are those in her profession really so similar in ilk? Wait, don’t answer that. What I’m asking is, is Goodman couching her own questions in the comfort of numbers in her rank? Perhaps, but she does ask a question that I find greatly encouraging:

But it’s impossible to watch this unfold and not wonder why people need tragedy to remind us of our humanity. And why we manufacture disaster when nature provides quite enough of its own...Is it only from the Olympian heights of outer space or the geological depths of an undersea earthquake that we feel our connection? Is it only during an ‘act of God’ that religious wars seem absurd and suicide bombs redundant?

Indeed, very good questions. In many ways we are insulated by our comfortable lives here in America.

Yet she concludes her piece:

Even now in the wake of the tsunami, we know more about tectonic plates buried under the ocean than we do about our own heart of darkness. Where on earth is the early warning system for man-made disasters?

Oh, Ellen, I can answer that question: the “early warning system” has been in place since the time of Genesis! There is plenty in the Good Book that describes hearts of darkness and what to do about them. (Somebody, please tell her!)

Endnote: If one lives day-to-day with knowledge and understanding of the human heart of darkness, then events like 9-11, genocide in Rwanda, and Iraqi car-bombings – shocking and unspeakably horrific as they are -- do not really give “pause.” Unfortunately, they are to be expected in an unregenerate world. As are large-scale natural disasters. This is why we must put our hope in something Beyond it all, Something that teaches us the truth about ourselves and others, and offers us all a way out.


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