Ah, back to one of my favorite hobbyhorses – Man & Nature! Over at the civilized roundtable hosted by Man_of_Roma, there was a little exchange about irony and nature, apropos of religion. Personally, I see little irony in the relationship of man and nature (if we can just sort out what that relationship is…) other than the fact that we humans are so smart, yet so blind at the same time. We insist on thinking that the universe somehow cares about us, or is, at least, cognizant of us. That something is out there that …um…well, thinks about us.
I don’t think so at all. Voltaire, such a clever fellow, was shocked, yes shocked, that God, if he exists, could destroy such a fair city as Lisbon with all its innocent inhabitants. (Is that ironic. I mean, didn’t he read any history?) Rousseau was more phlegmatic in his response, and he’s considered the blustering romantic. (Another irony? Note, they are all cultural ironies.) I’ve posted about their exchange of ideas on the Lisbon tsunami/earthquake here.
Here in my town, we had a little bit of Nature’s irony last night. A ripping storm moved through with terrific winds, knocking down 150 trees in in Teaneck alone. (Amazing – our power didn’t go out for once!) I’ve posted pictures from this morning below.
Two people were killed last night by a falling tree or power lines. They were out walking. Why? Could they have been members of the sizable orthodox Jewish community in town? They have to walk to and from temple on Saturday. Killed performing their duty to God? Is that ironic? Would a pagan have acted thus, or would they have stayed put in their home, and made some small burnt offerings? I guess if you’re orthodox, this is a little bit of a theodicy problem – how could God permit this to happen to people carrying out his will? (Who knows – maybe it will turn out they were atheists out boozing – I haven’t heard for sure.)
Ah yes, the trees! Trees are so good! Protect trees, be green. No, trees kill! Trees are the instrument of evil Nature! Or is it the weather, the storms? Whom, what do we blame?
We plant hundreds of trees in town to keep up property values, make streets look nice, lower temperatures, preserve that smalltown American look, but we crowd the trees into little spaces so their roots can’t develop well. Another irony here? The unintended effect – death, disruption, property damage – from a beneficial action, planting trees. Shall we cut down all the trees? Then we would be safe! Or, as Jean Jacques observed, if we did not insist on living in such close proximity to one another, falling trees would hardly be such a problem.
Please don’t think I’m heartless and cruel – I sympathize with those residents who have to deal with the fear and aftermath of a storm that blows huge trees into their houses, and of course, I’m not happy to see people killed to prove a point. But, I could go on, it entertains me so . . .the ideas that is…