Monday, September 6, 2010

Reflections on the Earthquake

The other morning I was slumbering away peacefully, but around 4:30 I was stirred by the house making some weird squeaking noises, and the bed rocking back and forth.  I realised it was an earthquake, but as I lay there pondering whether to jump out and get under a doorpost, or even whether to wake up Paula (who slept right through the whole thing) I realised it wasn't gonna be the sort of thing that could kill me, and just enjoyed the ride.

Well it turns out the earthquake was a pretty significant event in Christchurch, with widespread damage across the city, and especially in the CBD.  The earthquake, centred in Darfield, measured 7.1 on the richter scale.  Miraculously, there have been no fatalities as a result of the quake, and only two people sustained critical injuries.  It's pretty incredible when you read some people's stories of what happened.  An event of such magnitude obviously plays on everyone's mind for a while, so I thought I'd jot down some of my ponderings since hearing about what went down.

I'd guess the most influencial thing that this earthquake has done is remind us New Zealanders of our own mortality.  We're used to seeing images on the news of destructive events around the world, but somehow I think we subconciously forget that we are just as prone to those disasters as anyone else, which is silly in light of the fact that we actually sit right on top of the plate boundary.  But anyway, I think it can only be a good thing to be reminded of our mortality.  Hopefully plenty of people will be thinking about the bigger picture stuff as a result of this, realising that life has to be about more than the accumulation of wealth and 'stuff' and that the best thing you can do with your life is to be prepared for your death.  Some may call this morbid, I call it wise, especially when you realise that death doesn't need to be something to be feared.

My other thoughts are a bit trippy, so bear with me here for a moment.  I've been thinking about how God can be called good in a situation like this.  On the one hand, we can rejoice at how miraculous it is that no one died.  On the other hand, though, many people are now realising that they face a long and hard few months or years as they face the fact that heaps of their stuff has been destroyed, leaving them in the depths of financial hardship.  Was God good because he protected everyone's lives?  Or was God bad because he brought this calamity on the 'good' people of Christchurch at all?

I think God uses everything for ultimately good purposes, and I'm sure that out of this earthquake many people will be questioning the important things in their lives and hopefully realising that this life is about living for something bigger than yourself.  But thinking about this stuff is making me realise just how subjective our view of mercy is, and how it can so easily be distorted.  Is God's goodness a relative thing, dependent on our circumstances and outlook on life?  Or is there some outside, objective idea of what is good for people?  I'm realising that we humans, with our limited understanding and the biases of our upbringing and attitudes, really aren't in the best position to judge whether God is being good or not with whatever he does.

This is plunging into the deep end with some intense philosophical stuff, and I've written too much as it is so I'll call it quits there.  Tomorrow I hope to write some less deep, but still interesting thoughts on how the earthquake makes things interesting for my research here at survey school.

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