ALYSSA ROSENTHAL ’13
Throughout history, civilization has been constantly evolving. Our social interactions have become more complex, our technologies have become more innovative, our cities have grown, and our industries have advanced. All of these innovations have been efforts towards a common goal: to increase man’s ability to control his life, his image, his interactions, and his surroundings.
Today, we would never knock on someone’s door without texting first to make sure they were home and available, and we would never go see a movie without searching for reviews or checking IMDB to see which actors were in it. We use all the technologies available to us to control these aspects of our everyday lives in an effort to make our lives more predictable and more manageable. However, as we learned last weekend in the hundreds of years of evolution civilization has experienced, we have not yet developed a way to control the weather.
Before Blizzard Nemo hit last week, we knew it was coming. Meteorologists warned us that it was going to rival the Blizzard of ’78, politicians forbid us from driving, and our parents urged us to come home from school or collect some provisions and stay indoors.
However, no matter how well we tried to and were able to prepare for the storm, we were powerless when it came to controlling its effects. Just like our ancestors did when they were foraging for food, we had to hunker down, wait for the storm to be over, and then take stock of the damage done and move forward from there. For me, that moving forward including using a small shovel and a McDonalds tray to dig my car out of the mounds of snow that were keeping it imprisoned in its parking spot.
For others, it may have been using flashlights until they regained power or snow-blowing their driveway so they could get to work the next day. Regardless, it was clear that our apps, our social media connections, and even our early weather reports and storm warnings did nothing to help us manage the effects of the storm, proving that nature is something we have not yet found a way to control.
Before Europeans began their quest to spread Christianity across the globe, the nomadic peoples living throughout the world prayed to many different gods. These gods were so numerous because a different god controlled virtually every natural element, and the people understood that their livelihood was dependent upon nature and the weather. Therefore, when they needed rain for their crops they prayed to the gods of rain such as the Aztec Tlaloc, the Mayan Chaac, the Chinese Yu Shi, or the Hawaiian Lono. If their season did not seem to be developing as well as they would have liked, or they knew something was going wrong, they would pray to the African Magec, the Aztec Nanauatzin, the Basque Ekhi, or the Brazilian Meri, the gods of the sun and the light and the protectors of the human race.
These people associated all of the natural elements with celestial beings; they equated nature and its various powers to omnipotent forces beyond their control. In other words, they respected nature and the power it held over humanity in ways that in the modern age we sometimes forget we should.
The blizzard that hit the northeast last weekend is nothing compared to some of the natural disasters that have occurred in the last decade or so, disasters that have forced major cities and their inhabitants to start from scratch. I find that people today (myself included) typically see news of things like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, and even meteors on TV and immediately rationalize that something like that will never happen to me, I will never be in a place like that when a storm of that caliber decides to hit. If the mythological gods of the past could see us today, they would be shaking their heads in disgust and pity at the ways we try to control and micromanage every aspects of our lives. We like to have our electronic device tell us what is on our schedule for the coming day, and we do not particularly appreciate when an unforeseen and uncontrollable outer force interrupts that schedule. But as we saw last weekend, and will certainly continue to see in the future, these interruptions (to put it mildly) do occur, and there is nothing we can do to prevent them. All we can do is do our best to be prepared for them and accept that we may not have quite as much control as we think.