Capricious Natures

It’s August–the dog days of summer here in the northern hemisphere. Where I live, it is the height of fire season. Living in a semi-arid area, such as I do, we’re very conscious of the dangers of wildfires. Several years ago, a wildfire tore through the area, torching several thousand hectares of forest, and levelling several neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city. This fire occasioned one of the largest single evacuations in Canadian history. Those who have lived here for a long time will sometimes measure events as “before the fire” or “after the fire”. Since then, awareness is at such a level that the smallest fire around here occasions a swift and heavy response. We’ve had a few bad fires since, one as recently as 2009, which threatened several neighbourhoods. Suffice it to say, we don’t look kindly on visitors who flick cigarette butts out of their car windows, or leave campfires unattended.

Many years ago, there was a terrible firestorm in Oakland, California. I remember a Christian Science lecturer who famously (within the small circle of Christian Science) would tell her testimony of the dramatic and seemingly miraculous sparing of her family home during this particular fire. To make a long story short, their neighbourhood was evacuated, and all of the houses were burned to the ground except one–theirs. She credited her (and her husband’s) prayers in Christian Science for sparing their home. I’m not here to say whether the prayers did or did not have an effect, perhaps they did, or perhaps it was the capricious nature of wildfires. Much like tornadoes, they are known to level entire neighbourhoods, yet sometimes leave one or two homes/structures untouched. A simple shift of wind is often what makes all the difference. Did prayer shift the wind? I don’t know. At any rate, I recall her extreme gratitude that her home was saved, and all the credit going to Mary Baker Eddy and her wonderful “discovery” of Christian Science, and while I was happy for her about this, I wondered why God chose not to spare the homes of her neighbours. I guess it was because they weren’t “spiritual” enough–or that they weren’t praying in Christian Science, so to heck with them.

I’ve heard countless other Christian Science testimonies of a similar nature, where someone’s home was spared in a tornado, or earthquake or something, while the surrounding homes were destroyed, or how a person was spared in an accident, while others were not so lucky. Always, I’ve wondered why God would choose to spare one person over another. I never got a satisfactory answer in/from Christian Science for that–well at least one that ever made the question go away for me, and it always seemed unfair to me.

I think the explanation for such things is much more mundane than any sort of miraculous divine intervention. After all, a benevolent and omnipotent God would save everyone, if he/she loves everyone and is all Love, as Christian Science claims. No, I don’t think in any of these cases God had anything to do with it. I think things happen because that’s just the way it is meant to be–it is the very natural course of events. One home is saved because a slight change in barometric pressure shifts the wind–a perfectly natural occurrence. Same thing with a tornado. Earthquake waves affect different materials in different ways–perhaps one house is situated in such a way that the shaking forces are mitigated in some way, or the house is constructed in such a way that it survives, where others do not.

I do believe in a higher power (I call it “Creator”), but I don’t believe it is necessarily some supernatural being “out there” somewhere sparing some and damning others. I believe it is perhaps something we are all a part of and it is a part of us, a “collective intelligence” if you will. I don’t believe for one second it is something that capriciously favours one person over another. We are all here to experience and learn from everything, both good and bad, that life throws at us, and we often experience good or bad things according to decisions we make, or that others make; or sometimes it’s simply a random occurrence of chance that shifts the wind either away or towards our house. The main thing is, is that all that we experience, both good and bad, combines to make us stronger and better, if we choose to learn and grow from these lessons. I’m honestly still sorting out what “God” is for me, and probably will be for the rest of my life. I don’t have all of the answers, and I do not think there is anyone on this Earth who does. My advice to you, dear reader, is to call “bullshit” on anyone who does profess to have all the answers, or to have everything figured out. We are all learning. Personally, I will never say that I know everything, but I do know more today than I did yesterday.

2 thoughts on “Capricious Natures

  1. One of my friends at Prin told an only-house-spared-from-the-wildfire story as one of the reasons they felt CS was amazing – there “was no other explanation.” I’m a bit more skeptical grew up in a region that was often savaged by nature (namely flash floods and hurricanes), and there is always a reason (it is NOT the homeowner’s spirituality/CS-connection), it just isn’t always obvious.

    I take issue with the people who claim “God spared me!” while letting hundreds of thousands of others die/suffer tragically. Why would God pick you? There are hundreds of thousands of others out there who need help too.

  2. As a follow-up to this, I’ve been reading a number of articles about the large fire that swept through where I live now several years ago, and there were many cases where small adjacent buildings were untouched, while a house burned to the ground. Nobody really has an explanation for this phenomenon, but it often happens.

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