Friday, June 13, 2008

Lucky Lightning

Last Saturday night a storm came through our neighbourhood. A huge tree was struck by lightning and landed right next to a house a couple of streets away. The house suffered barely a scratch.

Does that make the inhabitants of the house lucky or unlucky? It was good luck that the tree missed their house. But surely it was bad luck that the lightning struck a massive tree right in their garden and no one else's. And that next day they had to call and pay for a timber crew that spent two days cutting up the tree and removing it.

The inhabitants might still have considered themselves lucky had the tree actually landed on their house, but they’d been out at the time. Or if they’d been sheltering in the basement. On the other hand, they might have considered themselves unlucky that half their house had been destroyed. Ultimately, though, most of us would think ourselves lucky that we were still alive, regardless of any destruction or the inconvenience of having lumberjacks occupy our garden.

Why then does someone like myself, living a couple of streets away, not consider himself lucky that the tree struck by lightning in my neighbourhood fell nowhere near to my house? Why am I not more relieved than my neighbour who’s gone through a massive cut-up and clean-up operation the past few days? Why am I not thanking God (or the Gods) that he or she or they sent that lightning bolt through a tree several hundred yards away, instead of the one in my back garden?

It's a different question, however, to consider getting missed by lightning as a piece of good luck, as opposed to having a narrow escape from an act of divine providence. God did not smite the tree upon your house because he is merciful, one might say. To me, though, it’s just further proof that he doesn’t exist. Otherwise, seeing as he was in the neighbourhood anyway, he’d have sent a stern message to the recalcitrant atheist via thunder, lightning and the crash of heavy wood. Look what I can do, infidel! Instead he apparently chose to warn an old couple who always keep a very neat garden (I suppose it’s possible that God really really hates very neat gardens. Or that they have several bodies buried under their flower beds and God reckons it's about time they fessed up).

You often read about people who had near-death experiences saying that they prayed to be saved, and now they are hugely grateful to God that they’ve been spared. To me, that’s strange. If you believe in God, and you think you’re about to die, shouldn’t you be happy you’re about to meet this entity you credit with creating the world and the universe? I’d be just dying to ask, “Dude, how the hell did you make the nudibranch and the twelve-wired bird of paradise?”

And second, if believers think that God controls their destiny, why do they think that God put them through this near-death experience? What sort of God gets a kick out of scaring the shit out of a nice old couple? A psychotic prankster? If that’s the case, perhaps eternity will turn out to be more entertaining than I thought. A massive amphitheatre with a giant screen where we can watch God toy with mankind and we all get to vote on typhoon, tornado or tsunami.

If not, we’re back to plain old good and bad luck.

10 comments:

nathan3e said...

My personal favorite in this bad weather season is when someone indicates straight-faced to a local news camera that God personally saved them from certain death by intervening on their behalf. Presumably God intensely disliked the people he did not save, who are now dead. You will never ever ever see a news reporter point out that perhaps claiming divine intervention is just a wee bit absurd. That would be "disrespectful".

Dave Lifton said...

Some comedian, I forgot who, once responded to the "God spared us" people by saying, "It seems like he tried to kill you, but missed."

No Good Boyo said...

A God who devotes his time to wiry wacko birds and LSD underwater slugs is unlikely to notice the odd tsunami, let alone moonfaced idiots slobbering their gratitude. and I'm with Him on this one. Also, God is clearly a male deity. no woman would have left all those small islands littering the Pacific like biscuit crumbs.

EdTheRed said...

Apropos of nothing, but yesterday's MLS games were just crying out for your auld goal-scoring watch feature...including Thursday's match, it's 18 goals in 6 games thus far this week, and Blanco still gets a shot at Dallas' porous defense later today. Gotta love that Red Bull defense, and Zach "Son of Near Post Tony" Wells is always willing to help out by adding at least one to the weekly total...

nathan3e said...

I will take edthered's apropos of nothing MLS point and run with it. I find that I have become almost involuntarily disinterested in all things MLS this season, plentiful goals or not. The obvious flaws that once seemed like growing pains to me now look intractable. Stick a random MLS team in a league in Romania or Japan and they would be pounded on a regular basis, which strikes me as sad.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

My own view is that Major League Soccer should adopt the Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise as its official creature of flight, and the nudibranch as its official hermaphrodite gastropod. Though some will no doubt charge that the latter move would just be a cynical attempt to sell the game to the androgynous sea-slug demographic.

nathan3e said...

The Los Angeles Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise is most assuredly not a worse name than the Los Angeles Galaxy.

EdTheRed said...

No no, nathan, you've got it wrong...stick the Los Angeles Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise or any other random, non-expansion, MLS team in a middling league in Europe, and they'll finish somewhere in the upper middle of the table, just below whatever passes for that particular league's Old Firm. The salary cap has that effect...

On the plus side, it's generally halfway decent (sometimes atrocious, sometimes actually quite good) live soccer, and other than Real Maryland or Crystal Palace Baltimore, MLS is my only option, and being an addict, follow it I must.

nathan3e said...

We have merely shifted allegiance to the local USL side, and I perhaps did not properly convey that I was previously an enthusiastic MLS defender. As I had spent a significant amount of time in NYC mucking about in the art world, I was actually a fervent New Jersey Energy Drinks supporter. My faith in MLS began to slip when I watched the mighty Houston Dynamo utterly fail to deal with Gamba Osaka in general and Bare specifically. They could have easily lost that match by 10 goals. My ability to support the Energy Drinks disappeared when it became obvious that Osorio did not have enough money available to him to sign an actual attacking midfielder and it was stated that Claudio Reyna and Mike Magee would be a tandem Plan B. Hilarious, with a dash of guaranteed failure. And John Wolyniec is still on the active roster. Which Blue Square Premier side would he start for?

EdTheRed said...

Yeah, the Red Bull New York Red Bulls brought to you by Red Bull (Red Bull Park opening 2010!) have been a big enough train wreck throughout their history to make anyone think MLS is a joke. The fact that you prefer watching the USL to watching the Energy Drinks is a sign of discerning taste. I commend you, sir!