Monday, June 28, 2010

And Then Along Comes Nature

I imagine that early mankind was a lot more fearful than modern mankind is. There they were in a huge world, surrounded by a natural world that was mostly unknown and more than occasionally frightening. At first food was available only if nature cooperated. You can't eat berries if they don't grow in the winter. You can't eat bread until you have figured out how to grow, harvest and store wheat and grains. You're going to get wet and cold and wet and hot until you figure out the ins and outs of building shelters.

Modern mankind has progressed far beyond anything our ancestors were capable of even dreaming of. Our discoveries and inventions allow us to do anything we want to do. In humankind's mind, we have mastered the world we live in. Uh huh.

Which is why on June 23, 2010, Twitter was burning up the lines with reports about an earthquake extending from north of Toronto into the NJ/NYC area. And then some of the blogs began reporting as well. The reports poured in about buildings shaking, about items moving and falling, about a world gone a bit topsy-turvy, at least in our thinking. There were a few people who questioned why, in this age of scientific know-how and superiority, we didn't have better earthquake prediction equipment, why we didn't have a way to control those quakes; their assumption was that we can control nature, so why aren't we doing so.

Just to set the record straight, thinking that we can control nature is a huge mistake. We are mislead by some of what we have been able to do. We've learned to build dikes to hold back water in low lying areas, and they work except when they don't work. We've learned to control the flow of our rivers and waterways, except when we can't. We've learned to cool ourselves in the summer and provide heat in the winter, except when a stray bolt of lightening or a winter storm arrives and knocks out our power systems.

How arrogant of mankind to believe that we are far above nature. We may have been given the earth for our use, but make no mistake that God is still in charge--the ways of Nature are His to decide, not ours. Let us heed the lesson of that earthquake well: we only think we are in charge of the world--the evidence doesn't bear out those thoughts.

It always puzzled me that we have brochas to say when seeing lightening and hearing thunder but none to say for going through things like earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes (other than, perhaps, bentching gomel). When I've had experience of some these natural occurrences I always say a heartfelt "Thank you God for keeping me safe." God offers us periodic examples to let us know that we may be god-like in our minds, but the reality is that we are still humans and God still runs the world.


LAnik said...

Couldn't believe that I was thousands of miles from home and all our quake activity, up in the Heights and felt a tremor. Nothing, of course, like what we get in LA and Cali but still not what I was expecting in NY. I guess God thought I was homesick and gave me a taste of home.

There is a tradeoff though. I'm watching all the forecasters here in the east talking about a bad hurricane season coming up--at least that's something we don't get in LA. At least not yet.

Allen said...

My bil spends a lot of time looking at places around the world. he's determined to find someplace that doesn't have any of the major natural happenings like earth quakes and hurricanes and tornados. He'd prefer liveable temperatures year round and no snow but no drought either. Add in that he wants a shul and a butcher and a yeshiva for the kids and a mikvah and reasonable rents and a good standard of living. So far he hasn't found anyplace like that and he's covered the globe at least a dozen times.

My mom used to say that God created the world this way so that man wouldn't get too big for his breeches (okay, we all knew it was britches but she insisted and maybe she was more right than we knew).

Anonymous said...

Sadly, in some religious circles (of every denomination, not just jews) its the most religious who show the least respect for nature. The most opposition to measures to protect the environment and the air we breath and the water we drink and to protect the fragile ecosystems created by Hashem often comes from the most "religious." I won't even get into the left wing liberal communist global warming conspiracy.

Ruth said...

First and only time hubby got me on a ship we took a cruise to the Caribbean in late summer. No wonder the price had been reduced so much. We 'accidentally' got thrown around by a storm that decided to become an early hurricane. When we finally limped back to Florida I ran off the ship and hugged the ground. You don't have to convince me that God runs the world. I saw that first hand and I have no doubts whatsoever.