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Our own private Vesuvius

July 17, 2006

I’ve had cause for meditating on the nature of catastrophe since my house almost burned down on Saturday night.  Normally I wouldn’t dwell on such matters, but every now and then you just have to look around you and realize how little control we have over circumstances and random disasters. 

I think my awareness of the chaotic nature of the world and the consequent hardships on people in a seeming meaningless way informed an early belief in socialist politics.  Since we’re all exposed to the same elements, we should in kind help one another as we are able.  I know it gets much more complicated than that, but I’m not here to write a book and won’t get into it.

Anyway, while I was freaking out about my house, there was an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Java sweeping away homes and killing people.  A fighter plane in Hillsboro crashed and obliterated a home entirely (though no one but the pilot was killed).  Although I would venture to say that while the plane crash was an accident, the choice to have an air show with dangerous stunts was not at all an accidental occurence.

And here we have in the beautiful east horizon our own private Vesuvius, which brings me to the point of my post.  Imagine how our lives would change if Mt. Hood started to burp and spew.  It would completely color our daily lives – the possibility of explosion and disaster looming overhead.  I think it would put our daily gripes and moans in a stark relief. 

I have to admit that I’d rather have a volcano than bombs, and I’m all too aware of the critical and massive distance between my perception and the terrible reality of escalation and war all over the other side of the planet.  Somehow natural disasters or accidents don’t hurt as bad as the human inflicted atrocities, even if the damage is measurably the same. 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2006 12:47 pm

    When Mt St Helens blew, I was living in Spokane. It was amazing to get 18″ of ash on my house in the Spokane valley, a full 320 miles away from the mountain. I remember 5 years previous, they thought that Mt Baker (in WA) was on the verge of exploding. You never know what disaster is looming, when you’re living next to a sleeping giant. Now I deal with potential tornados and baseball-sized hail. Oh well, every area has its downside.

    I agree with you; I would much rather deal with a natural disaster than a manmade tragedy. Natural disasters are less cruel (psychologically), because of the lack of hostile intent.

    Happy trails,
    Bad Ben

  2. July 18, 2006 4:39 pm

    That tsunami got almost no attention, though 300+ people died–odd.

    I didn’t mention it on your fire post, but I’m in the habit of pondering various catastrophes and thinking about what I’d do. Fires–all over that. Save the computer! Photos next. I also have imagined a scenario in which there wasn’t much time, but you could spend a minute or two heaving things out the window. Then I imagine: but what about social propriety? You can heave a lot of stuff–a whole closet full of clothes, for example–out the window in a minute. But then you’d have to go into the yard as people gathered to watch your house burn, and there it would be, strewn with clothes. To save your clothes, could you manage that scene? I wonder about these things.

    But the volcano–that’s one I haven’t thought of. I suppose there’s not a whole lot to do. It either goes Vesuvius on us, or we deal with ash and magma.

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