The other evening we were treated to a brilliant lightning storm. Looking north from the apartment, we could see the storm approaching, see the flashes of lighting in the distance, and hear the far away rumbling of thunder. The flashes created arcs across the sky and tumbled down to the earth in multiple jagged spears that disappeared behind the skyline.
As the storm approached, the thunder grew louder and the lightning spears more intense in electrifying incandescence. Don't say that lightning never strikes twice, as I watched the Empire State building absorb several bolts, so fierce that I thought I could feel the electricity coursing down through the wires to the ground.
What was so fascinating about this display? There is no question that the discharge of such power evokes our riveted attention. But equally attractive is the unpredictability of the moment. Anticipating the next strike, you hang on the quiet pauses in between (I call them pausations), and when the storm is upon us, we feel each crashing intrusion into the moment as an explosion, an invasion that crashes through us as a visceral blow. Somehow our environment has become an awesome bully, threatening us to take note of our place or face instant extinction.
I have noticed that as science and technology have attained greater influence on our thinking, a cult of extinction has emerged. The new priests look ahead to the death of planets, the death of stars, the death of the universe itself. Extinction is the natural order. It was time for the dinosaurs to die, and soon, we will lose the moon, or be destroyed by a random rolling stone from the asteroid belt, or the sun will spear us with a devastating flare.
Our fate is sealed, or so the new high priests of science and technology would have us believe. And yet, even as we think we know everything, we may have entered an enormous Dark Age in which too much information is more stifling than no information. We have always had the doomsdayer, who like Robert Herrick reminds us that the time for living is Now and only Now:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
Yet, I know that even now, our concepts of the universe, generated from shopworn equations in physics are giving way to perceptions of parallel universes and the existence of time before the big bang.
Maybe there is hope for us yet.