Colorado floods of ‘biblical proportions’

Sept. 14, 2013A wall clings to the remnants of a house in Jamestown, Colo., after a flash flood destroyed much … Continued

Sept. 14, 2013A wall clings to the remnants of a house in Jamestown, Colo., after a flash flood destroyed much of the town. Colorado farming communities along the South Platte River were ordered to evacuate the area ahead of a predicted surge in the flooding, which may have claimed a fifth life and has left many still unaccounted for, authorities said Saturday.Rick Wilking / Reuters

Without minimizing the pain, and loss both personal and material resulting from the flood in Colorado, I wonder why this or any other weather-related stories capture as much national attention as they do.

It’s not that I am unfeeling, and certainly for those in the area, whether they have sustained a loss or not, this really is a big deal. But why do these events capture national attention, and as much of it as has been given?

There is always the easy answer that with a 24-hour news cycle and endless ways to cover and share stories, the media is always looking for stories to promote. But were there no steady audience for this kind of coverage, they would not be able to do so with as much regularity and success, so the question remains.

What is it about weather stories that engage us even when the story has no real effect on us? I think it is because weather is one of the few things left, before which actually feel small.

Weather stories, or more accurately their enduring popularity, speak to the sense of awe and majesty that have departed from so many areas of our lives. Even how and when we die is increasing under human control, which is why we fight so hard about end-of-life issues, but that is another story.

The bottom line is that over the last decades we have become increasingly influential, if not in control, of issues before which humans were almost totally passive for all of human history. Don’t get me wrong, I would not have it any other way.

I am a big fan of increasing human empowerment for many reasons, including personal, theological, religious, and historic reasons. Having “conquered” so many issues previously out of our hands however, we are left with a hunger for the awesome and the unconquerable, which is where the weather stories fit in.

We long for the mysterious, the enormous, and what experts at the National Weather Servie even refer to as events of “biblical proportion.” They clearly are not attempting to engage audiences in debates about disaster theology, but the language remains resonant precisely because it takes us back to a moment when people stood small and vulnerable before whatever God(s) they believed in.

How do we combine the impulse to be both big and small at the same time, to conquer enduring scientific questions while feeling the intensity of mystery which so many of us crave? I think that is real energy behind the flood of attention paid to a flood which actually effects a relatively tiny number of us.

Perhaps one way to feel both big and small, to live with a profound sense of our own finitude while retaining the importance of our “little” lives is to offer the following meditation/prayer/thought:

May I/we find the compassion to care about that which I/we cannot control, and the strength to make a difference, however seemingly small, wherever and whenever I/we can.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • Tom_Woolf

    As somebody brought up in a christian-majority society, of course the media and talking heads are obsessed with the idea that everything that might be BIG is infused with the merchandising of “biblical proportions”…. How else do you prove your point to the masses than decry “just like in Noah’s time!”

    Just as I yell “jesus christ!” when I whack my thumb with a hammer, or the person who has just dodged death will exclaim “thank god”, stating a flood is of “biblical proportions” is simply a linguistic shortcut – not a real call to a hammered jew or a magical space ghost or a comparison to a fictional torrential rain as recounted by a drunk whose daughters felt incest was a perfectly natural act…

  • Wildthing1

    It shows our civilization is hanging by a fragile thread and could dissolve in a few instants with just a few critical events yet we spend all our time creating devastating wars to get progress and reconstruction out of destruction profiteering. A country increaingly creating chaos abroad could discover chaos coming back home to roost on our own stoops.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Isn’t it obvious god doesn’t want people smoking his flowers (Pot) so he is flooding the stoners in Colorado.

    BTW it was the drunk, Lot who did the unspeakable with his daughters. Moses only ordered the murder of children and allowed the rape of women (following commands from above). I know it is difficult to separate out the moral pillars of the followers of the god of Abraham. Let’s not talk about being more then willing to kill your own kid because you hear voices in your head.

  • FRDH

    God’s retribution for worshiping at the NRA Alter

  • itsthedax

    Considering that the early civilizations in the middle east were along the Nile River, and in the fertile Tigris and Euphrates region, it’s not surprising that they developed flood legends that found their way into the old testament, the saga of Gilgamesh and the Prometheus stories. When you think about it, the Colorado floods were probably on the same scale as the floods that inspired the bible story.