Tuesday, May 21, 2013


As happens from time to time, I seem be somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of fate right now, especially concerning the fragility of life. I think the trigger for this occurrence was recently reading about a songwriter (whose name escapes me) planning a concept album, the central theme of which will be a contemplation on the nature of perfectly ordinary, individual human existence. It was borne, he said, of an unshakeable feeling of infinitesimal tininess in the universe, and how mind-blowing and overwhelming a thought it was.

With this on my mind I started thinking about certain news items in a different way. I've had thoughts like this before, but we can become so desensitized to the horrors of the world that it is easy to read about such as scores of people being blown to pieces in Baghdad or Basra, as has happened again this week, without a further thought about it beyond the last sentence. But with the songwriter's intentions floating about my brain, I've been thinking about the fate of those poor people, and in fact anyone simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Those Iraqis got out of bed on those mornings to go about their days like any normal human beings. They probably had plans to shop for food and essential supplies for their families, perhaps meet with friends for idle chatter about who knows what. Going about their business, others going about their own blew them into a million pieces. Alive one second, dead the next, probably feeling nothing. The lights were on, then they were off, and those lives were snuffed out in an instant in the name of sectarianism. Had they not been there, they would have lived, but however way you look at it there would have been great loss of life of people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps it was fate that those particular people's lives had to end that day. There is no cosmic design governing human existence, but if there was... 

This morning I could not stop looking at a couple of particularly extraordinary images of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma. One aerial shot showed a trail of destruction through a swathe of Moore, yet either side of the path of the tornado was untouched. Nature at its most calamitous had followed an obviously random path, yet people and buildings just a relatively short distance from its massive destructive power had remained unharmed and undamaged. The survivors will likely thank their respective gods they were spared, while an entire community will be forever scarred by the randomness of the power of nature.

I used to get lost in these kinds of thoughts, but no longer. However, these kinds of events, whether man-made and driven by "God," as in Iraq, or an "act of God," as in Oklahoma, do get me thinking about how it might all end for me when it does. Will I die a quiet death by natural causes; be claimed by some awful disease or a tragic accident, or will my demise be dramatic and newsworthy like the poor souls the world lost this week to bombs and tornados? What will be my fate?     

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