Friday, April 30, 2010

Living in the shadow of a giant

The recent eruption of the Icelandic volcano has brought up a few thoughts on what it's like to live within the blast shadow of one.  Our beautiful mountain is a sleeping giant.  We all know it.  And, like the possibility of a devastating earthquake, there's some likelihood that it'll wake up and smash us like the ants we might resemble.  But I refuse to fear such an event.  For one, there's nothing I can do about it.  For two, natural disasters are something it's almost impossible to avoid no matter where you live.  Here on the west coast it's earthquakes and volcanoes.  The southeast has hurricanes.  The midwest has tornadoes.  The southwest has droughts and flash floods.  Only the New England states and their nearest neighbors seem generally "safe," but are they really?  Given global warming it's only a matter of time before a hurricane ventures up that direction.

Mt. Rainier.  Too beautiful to fear.

Some may call it fatalism, but I tend to think of it as a kind of optimism.  I'll go ahead with my life not worrying about big volcanoes and possible meteor strikes caused by passing across the middle plane of the galaxy (one of my father's big concerns, apparently).  Because, well, there's not a fucking thing I can do about it.  I could avoid the mountain by moving, but, seriously, that would be a little like wearing a hazmat suit every day of your life just in case a toxic spill happened.  Shit happens.  But you can't and shouldn't, as they say, borrow trouble.

Probably doesn't hurt that I'm not particularly afraid of death.  I don't know what comes next, if anything comes next, but I'm fairly certain that there isn't a heaven or hell.  Both are absurd concepts when you get right down to it.  An eternity bowing and scraping to a narcissistic deity or eternal torture as punishment for a few temporary misdeeds?  Seriously?  How anyone can actually buy into this crap is beyond me.  Reincarnation actually makes a bit more sense.  But even oblivion is okay with me.  It's nice to think that something may continue, but anyone offering guarantees is selling something I don't want to buy.  If the coin is "faith," my pockets are perpetually empty.

So, yeah, the mountain may explode and squish us all in massive mudflows, boil us in lava or pyroclastic clouds, or choke us with ash.  Or a meteor may slam into the Earth and snuff all life as we know it in a nanosecond.  But, despite my lack of what would traditionally be called "faith," I like to think there's a reason we're here, a reason not served by the casual snuffing out of our existence.  The universe may be a matter of random chance, but maybe, just maybe, there might be a reason behind it all.  And maybe sentience has a purpose beyond what we can see or understand.

And, then again, maybe I'm just telling myself the things I need to tell myself in order to roll out of bed every day and turn a smile to the world.

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