"When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what the storm's all about." -- Haruki Murakami
Let's just say it outright: There is no better reminder -- not death, not illness, not orgasm, not birth or marriage or divorce, not surgery or getting fired or going slightly mad on a cocktail of laudanum and cocaine and savage karmic dread -- there is no better reminder that we know nothing, own nothing, and are powerless to do anything about it anyway, than the weather.
Have you noticed? Have you noticed enough? Storms, hurricanes, grand natural disasters of any serious scale have the most remarkable, devastating ability, not merely to slam us into compliance, not merely to remind us to buy better rain boots next time, not merely prove to us just how motherf--king awesome/terrifying is Mother Nature as a force of upheaval and annihilation, but to wipe our whiny, personal melodramatic slates clean.
Is it not the greatest thing? Is it not so harrowing and timeless as to be downright irrefutable? We look at something like Sandy and we say, "Finally, it's not all about us. Finally, something that has nothing to do with our petty woes, egos, logos, moans, arguments, scams, speeches, anonymous comments and porn addictions."
All karmic doors are blown wide open. All emotional baggage revealed as rickety and thin. Sandy does not care about who you love, hate or marry. She does not care who you vote for. She does not give a damn about your rent, your car, your opinion of gay marriage, Mitt Romney's hollow soul, factory worker abuse in China, immigration reform, gas prices, Libya, or the well-being of your cat, you home or your children.
She is the equal-opportunity demolisher. She is Kali in a black windbreaker, Shiva in a violent fever dream, transformation writ unscalable and dim.
All normal fortifications are hereby adjourned. Your income level won't save you. Your age, race and gender are largely irrelevant. Your education level matters not at all (unless you're too stupid to get out of the way). In this way, she is the feral earth at her most egalitarian. Everyone is affected; no one is completely safe.
What, you don't live in one of the 20 distressed cities? Didn't feel her much of her wrath this time? Don't worry -- she knows where you live. Or rather, her relatives do. And with accelerated climate change, they'll be coming for a visit soon.
Are you like me? Amidst the chaos and devastation, do you have a strange compulsion to float down a flooded highway atop a caved-in roof and shout it to the winds: "We are not the center of it all, after all! We are not the top of nature's food chain; we are the toothpicks! We are not the rulers of the world, we are the swarm of adorably baffled gnats, bounded inside a subway tube and calling ourselves the kings of infinite space!"
Do you want to do that? I sort of want to do that. And then I want to explore hurricane relief options, help New York aquarium workers protect a baby walrus, and get the hell out of the way and go live to a cabin in the woods for a year.
Behold, the charming folly of men. All our dazzling metropolises, gleaming inventions, churning power grids, information superhighways and devious plans to thwart the gods, all flattened in an hour by nothing more than some fantastically livid wind and rain.
And what's our usual reaction to such potent reminders, aside from eyes wide and mouths agape, aside from bad jokes, stiff drinks, mourning our losses, hearty prayers? Two things:
First, we prepare. We hunker down, nail up a few thousand boards, stock up on water and whisky and extra bullets, scurry to higher ground. We work to build stronger shelters, improve our urban systems of protection and care, reinforce the buildings and patch the roads so our cities will better withstand the extreme weather patterns, even though they can't.
We listen to smart leaders like New York's Gov. Cuomo as he dares to acknowledge the politically unthinkable, which is: Sandy is not alone. She is but one in a new army of extreme weather systems which now constitute the "new reality" of climate change, and we must learn to prepare for many more like her if we are to survive.
But our second collective response is even better, even more apt. Can you guess?...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He's also a well-known E-RYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...
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