Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insights from Irene

Irene rolled into Connecticut by night. By morning (8:00 a.m. on my street), the lights were out. It would not be restored for days; some parts of the northeast had it far worse.

We had been waiting for the storm because contemporary metereology identifies the path of hurricanes early in their development. As we waited, I noted the following:

People vacillate between worrying for the worst and scoffing at the claims of danger. Maintaining a reasoned, balanced assessment of risk is difficult for most and impossible for many.

People don't want to go without water and bread. These were the two items that sold out at the grocery store in tbe days before Irene. Other food sold well, but bread and water sold out.

Some people like icecream so much that the threat of a power outage means nothing. In tbe grocery store, as I waited to check out with my $200 worth of crackers and other dry foods, a young couple ahead of me was paying for three half gallons of cookies and cream. It was so far removed from the coming storm that it seemed an almost perfect NT parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. I looked around for Jesus, but he was nowhere to be found. He was probably combing the store looking for water.

Speaking of the Kingdom and groceries: there were two types of end-timers. Those who refused to budge an inch, and those who yielded perfectly and completely to Irene. The non-budgers were buying items that go bad with a few hours loss of refrigeration. Sushi! Good anytime, assuming it's been kept cold. The yielders were not more anxious, I think. Many took delight in sharing dark stories of flood and peril. If this group was on Noah's ark, they'd have brought jars of peanuts.

After the storm struck, I noted a few other things:

Power is important to people. Electricity, digital connections, washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators--it's hard to do without these things once expectations and assumptions are framed with their availability.

Warm food is healing. Whoever invented the use of fire to cook food, I propose, should be named Adam. (I am assuming that the first cooking was outside, and so fell to men. Only later, with intensified civilization, was it moved inside and remanded to women.) After a few days without warm food, a heated pop tart is tastier and more to be desired than salmon seviche.

Hot coffee is holy.

Our reliance on digital media has led to our ignoring of neighbors. Each night after work, we neighbors stood in our front yards and compared notes, worries, and complaints. These acts resonated deeply; they followed patterns that are hundreds of thousands of years old. But in the last decade, we have set much of that aside, because our attentions are drawn to the worlds of digital media. Something important has been lost.

Remembering lessons is hard; acting upon them is nigh impossible. The storm is gone. The power is back. What was all the fuss about?

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