Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Reflections on Tragedy

I was thinking about what to write today, if anything, but I've been distracted by CNNi reporting on the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe in Asia. About the only time I haven't been watching it or at least listening to it was while I was out for a few hours in the gloom of a dark, cloudy, rainy day in Belgrade.

I thought of a number of topics, but none seems very important. I keep thinking about how abruptly life can change, how quickly our ordered, predictable existences can be reduced to tragedy. I don't know what to draw from that. Perhaps that we should pay more attention to the things and people that matter because we never know when everything will be taken away, forever. But there's nothing particularly insightful or profound in that observation.

Some are saying this is the worst natural disaster in recorded human history. I'm not sure that's true, unless you qualify the statement in some way, such as what caused it or how quickly it happened. The 1918 flu pandemic, for example, killed between 20 and 50 million people in six months or so. No one is sure how many died, but it was horrific. The virus spread like wildfire from birds to pigs to people, or so the experts say. Was that a natural disaster, or do only weather and seismic events qualify?

None of this pathetic musing matters when people cling tenuously to life in the midst of such tragedy, hoping desperately that they and the ones they care about can survive just a little longer.

Thomas Hobbes, reflecting more on conflict among men in war than natural disaster, famously remarked on "the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." But what foe could be more implacable than Nature itself, in whatever guise, and how much more "nasty and brutish" could life become?

4 Comments:

Blogger RomanWanderer said...

The only answer might be that everything happens for a reson. The question now is figuring it out.

3:51 PM, December 28, 2004  
Blogger Patrick Hernan said...

These were not "pathetic musings," Tom. The way you closed this post was perfect. I could almost feel the discussion you were having with yourself prior to sitting down to write. Regards.

4:10 PM, December 28, 2004  
Blogger Zelda said...

Contrary to what the environmentalists would have us believe, nature is indeed nasty and brutish. And so humans must keep finding ways to dominate it or control it.

8:56 PM, December 28, 2004  
Blogger cass said...

We fool ourselves into thinking we have nice, safe lives.

12:19 PM, January 11, 2005  

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