Tuesday Morning Press 25 — On Randomness

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Yesterday was awful for our country; the massive EF-4 tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, devastated, killed, flattened, destroyed and shattered lives, businesses, livelihoods, schools, churches and everything we hold most dear: emotional security.

At times like these, people want to blame someone, something: a policy, a procedure, a handbook, a code. They can’t.

This isn’t a hurricane we’re talking about; it’s a tornado. Tornadoes evaporate just as quickly and unreliably as they manifest.

Lots of questions that really have no answer abound: why were kids in school? Why weren’t people in basements? Why weren’t people sheltered?

The answer is simple and rational: you can’t prepare for a tornado. You. Just. Can’t.

You can wait in your basement, you can go to your safe room, but the point is: you don’t know where it will actually ever strike, nor do you know its intensity when it does strike.

During Hurricane Isabel, back in 2003 (I think), my neighbors had a large tree, about 60′ in height. We were mostly dealing with winds and rain. All of a sudden, I saw that tree not sway anymore, but twist from 40′ down and torque and fly into my yard and land on my kids’ playset. That wasn’t a hurricane wind shear, it was a microburst. I live in northern Virginia. Tornadoes don’t happen here very often. We get blistering heat, hurricanes, autumnal winds that will chap your face, and other acts of Mother Nature.

So to the people want to blame something. A government, Al Qaeda (just kidding), a policy… stop.

Sit with the discomfort of your inability to make sense of this.

There is no sense to be made.

We survive or we die.

This is life. It is precious. As random as things are and they TRULY are, you must embrace the fact that you have no control. The ONE THING WE CAN COUNT ON IS THIS: we will all die, at one time or another, usually without our consent or warning. There will likely be no need for a safe room or a tornado shelter; there will likely be no government policy that should have been in place to have prevented our death.

Life is precious, death is certain. Enjoy every moment you can, stop blaming policies or people or governments or weather systems… there is nothing that could have prevented anyone from perishing yesterday. Nothing.

Those massive tornadoes are often called the “Finger of God” and I can tell you this: it’s an apt description.

To anyone who wants to ask, “where was God when this happened?” I counter with: “Where was God when you were born? When you made it through a crisis, an addiction, a horror? Or cancer?” God was there. Just as He is when someone dies or suffers. Believe in Him or not, call it “Fate” or “Destiny” or the “Universe.” Call it whatever you want, but don’t make the mistake of trying to make sense of it. Don’t even think about talking about the environment right now. Don’t make me add you to the list of people who just need to shut the @(*& up right now. It’s not about you and your posturing.

If you pray, do. “Ora” as we say in Latin, pray. Worrying won’t help; it hinders. Donate funds to the American Red Cross:

This has been a major disaster, and the Red Cross will be there for the people in this state and this community. People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

My thoughts of compassion and sadness dart from the school to the homes to the pets to the kids to the businesses to the school… there is no rest from sadness of the story. There are many good points though — the stories we hear now, about the cleaning up and finding of survivors. We call them heroes, but they might shun that label; they are doing what any of us would. Despite all this sadness and destruction, it is the human spirit that leaves me awestruck and humbled.

As for your life as you have it: enjoy what you can, help those in need, be present and stop blaming. There is no one to blame.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

18 responses »

  1. Since I’ve talked about why the kids were still in school (and now I understand it is because they only had 15 minutes warning) and these superstorms being related to climate change (like the entire scientific community agrees upon) I have to assume I am one of those people you wish would shut up. We can agree to disagree on this one. I’m not trying to find someone to blame, but I am definitely picking up Thomas from school today before the forecasted storms/hail/tornados hit Dallas today. If we die today, I would rather die trying to shield and protect them. Why people in OK (and Dallas) don’t have basements is because we are built on rock. If we have to shelter in place it’s duck in cover in the halls at school (which as we saw yesterday is not very effective) or get in an internal bathroom with bathtub and put a mattress over you for protection. Other than that, yes if it’s time to go it’s time to go. And I definitely don’t understand why an all knowing All loving all powerful god would let these things happen. But if you ask the devoted they will say because eve ate the apple. Makes no sense to me but whatever.

    • I never said anything about an all-knowing and all-powerful and all-loving God; you did. The point is: we feel helpless. You know why? because we are. That makes us, the mere mortals, uncomfortable. For all our extra gray matter, ability to speak and walk upright, reason and doubt, we are no different, at the end of the day or the end of the line, than an ape, a skink or an ant. We are just as vulnerable, and that makes some of us panic, act out, freak and anxious and ask questions about policy and procedure and architecture and where we live. it’s a normal HUMAN reaction; but the apes and the skinks aren’t doing it.

      If you believe that it’s all science, which it seems like you do, I accept that. In fact, I find great comfort in the randomness of it all. But we can look at these things as either opportunities to rise above our possibly usual and panicked reactivity, and be at peace with the fact that we are no different, better or more precious than an ant or a dolphin; or we can freak out, shake our fists at the injustices of the environment, the gases, the carbon dioxide (which we ALL contribute to just by exhaling) and the fates and our hateful and raging God and perpetuate a sense of victimhood.

      this is bigger than we are. it always has been, it always will be and we have no control. we can take comfort in that fact, or we can find chaos in it and do what we can to stand up to a force, so great, so much beyond our comprehension, and lose anyway.

      “Eve ate the apple”? Assholes are suggesting that. And they’re just as irrational as the people –right now– who blame the environment. This is not the time to blame anyone. It’s the time to accept it, help where we can, pray if that’s your gig, send peace if that’s your gig, and really… STFU about anything but support.

      As for my stance on anyone who’s gonna get on a grandstand about the environment and policies, to quote you, “makes no sense to me but whatever.”

      • Molly, you rock! Sometimes there just are no answers. This is one of those times.

      • Susie, calm yourself down or unfriend me. The irony in your behavior shows me how unaware you are about your behavior. This is my blog, essentially my house and you are way out of line.

      • Wow Molly, you are willing to give up thirty years of friendship over comments on a blog post. If that is how you feel, I suggest you unfriend me. I can’t exactly “un-know” you. We practically grew up together. Sorry if my comments made you mad. We can agree to disagree. I didn’t realize that blogging means that everybody always has to agree with you. In fact, you have come over to “my house” several times and disagreed with me. And that’s ok with me. When I post things, I know that people are going to have different opinions about them. I responded to your post because I felt you were including me in the people you want to shut up. People think and feel differently. I guess you can tell people (me) to shut up and then get offended when they tell you the same thing. You quoted me; I quoted you. Sorry if that was too harsh. I don’t even use the acronym STFU. That came from your post telling me to STFU.

        Perhaps there is a misunderstanding here. In an effort to clarify, if people like me are asking questions after a tragedy, it doesn’t mean we can’t accept the randomness of the grim reaper coming to claim our lives. I can only speak for myself. When I ask questions, it’s because in my belief there is a reason for every event, and it is a scientific reason. Retracing steps that led up to a tragedy can sometimes teach us how to prevent them in the future. Like after 9/11, look at all the security changes that were put in place. One failed shoe-bomber attempt and we all take off our shoes at the airport now. Car accidents? Something led up to it, whether it was texting, talking on the phone, reading the GPS, not wearing seatbelts so you get ejected and killed, or maybe the other driver’s drinking before they run into you. Drug overdoses? Those people got a hold of the drugs somehow. At some point they made a choice that took them over the edge. We can learn from that. Crimes? Murder? Same thing, we can look at mental health history, gun regulations, safety and security in our homes etc. Kids abducted? Same thing. Was the kid outside alone or walking in a public place alone? Where were the parents? Cancer? Sometimes we can trace reasons like environmental toxins or smoking or drinking/substance abuse. Sometimes it’s just random disease, and we don’t know exactly the answer, but the medical community keeps looking. In the case of Moore, OK I heard on the news today they didn’t have a safe shelter because of the age of the school building. When the school was built, there were no safe shelters. Schools there that have been rebuilt now have safe shelters. We can look backwards at tragedy and learn from it in my opinion. We can do everything we can to try to prevent future tragedies. Like you said, death is certain, and in some cases it will come for us no matter what we do to try to prevent it. But I just don’t think that means we have to resolve ourselves to not asking questions and not trying to find answers and ways to prevent future tragedies.

      • Sus, I’m not going to air this for the entire world to be able to see.

        Sometimes 30 years is enough. The prevailing thread in all of this is that several of my posts have seemed to you as to be written about you. You have asked me this on more than three occasions and have even gone so far as to call me on the phone to ask about it. I can’t deal with that kind of scrutiny and … specter. It’s just too much for me.

        The STFU was a generality; I can see how it didn’t work as a generality because it was a comment to your comment, but it was allusion to my earlier in-post comment about people getting their undies in a bunch about the environment. Now simply isn’t the time to get all pissy about the environment. People are devastated.

        The final comment after the STFU was “anything but support.” And then you jumped all over me about me supposedly telling you how to react. I did no such thing.

        You and I have vastly different philosophies on many matters and sometimes I just don’t feel like debating it. Maybe it’s time, for me, to let it all go. I will walk from the friendship for now. I just can’t deal with this stuff, it’s so inconsequential and yet, so laden with conflict for me. I need a safe space for me to feel free to write what I want and not worry about people thinking I’m profiling them.

        Best and kind and warm regards, Susie.

  2. Having lived through several natural disasters, I would have to agree. There is only so much that we can do.

  3. i was going to quote the good witch from the wizard of oz, y’know something along the lines of ‘begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!’, but i’m too tired to fight or have people be pissy with me. i love you, molly. i don’t try to make sense of anything anymore. i just thank GOD that i have another day of life. goodnight. it’s been a super crazy, long, stressful day for moi and i’m going to have a glass of wine and fall deep into sleep….who knows, when i wake up i just might be in a new land, with sweet little people and talking trees. peace out.

  4. I think unless you have ever lived through tornadoes you can never grasp the sheer pandaemonium they produce. The truth is there is no exact way of know where it will hit until it has touched the ground and even then it can turn and go in a completely different direction. Great post!

  5. I cut and pasted below so you’ll know which part I’m about to comment on. I really liked this – I’ve always shrugged and mumbled because I wasn’t quite sure of the words to express, but I feel this strongly. Thanks. cb

    To anyone who wants to ask, “where was God when this happened?” I counter with: “Where was God when you were born? When you made it through a crisis, an addiction, a horror? Or cancer?” God was there. Just as He is when someone dies or suffers. Believe in Him or not, call it “Fate” or “Destiny” or the “Universe.” Call it whatever you want, but don’t make the mistake of trying to make sense of it.

    p.s. Sorry about your friend.

    • Thanks, cb.

      I think people want to blame God when shit hits the fan, but say they had good luck or good genes when they beat something awful. I am probably the worst Catholic ever, but I do believe in God.

      Thanks for your comment about my friend. It’s hard. I need to love her from afar right now; perhaps forever. She’s a good person, it’s just that I’m in a different space and I desperately need healthy boundaries and rational discourse wherever I can find it. I plan to write a bit about why, where I am (not relating at all to this incident), but more so processing why I’m so eager to be clear-headed.

      I’m so glad you’re “back.”

      Xo

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