There is an eerie calm in New York after the warnings of Hurricane Sandy being the storm of the century. The euphoria of children yesterday when they heard that there would be no school today has given way to a deep calm in streets with almost no traffic. The wind blows through the trees and sounds like the collective conversations of an audience awaiting a symphony. The roads are almost devoid of traffic, and people are driving cautiously, in anticipation of gusts of wind that can shake even large vehicles.
It is times like this that remind us of our helplessness in the face of weather conditions, over which we have absolutely no control. There is a feeling of closeness to strangers, the feeling that we are all on a ship that is not very large. Although we do not know what or who will emerge from the storm and in what condition, there is a camaraderie in the face of a danger that can not be charted with any precision.
I am posting on Globe Tribune.Info early in the day. By afternoon, there may be loss of power and of internet connectivity. Depending upon how long the storm interrupts my ability to post, I may write without any pictures or videos. In a worst case scenario, I may write off line and post after the storm.
It is rare for the weather to be the constant focus of conversation. It is usually best when health or the weather exists as a backdrop to the center of our attention. Normally, when a governor or a mayor speaks, it is an annoyance. Today, far from overreaching, as governors and mayors so often do, there is a reassuring tone to Governor Cuomo or Mayor Bloomberg advising us on coping with the storm. In normal times, we bristle at “nanny state” rules, and there is an element of constancy to getting basic common sense advice from elected officials. Indeed, in the age of monarchy, the patriarchal, paternalistic sense in society was far more overt than it is today with our elected, rather than hereditary leaders. Times of weather emergency and natural disaster hearken back to those days in our collective past.
Ultimately, all disasters, whether natural, man made or elected, pass into distant memory, and only occasionally into history. This storm, the end of which none of us can predict, will likewise pass. It gives us an awareness of a Greater Power, as well as each other, and the fragility of our collective plans. A couple of weeks ago, the story of Noah’s Ark was read in synagogues around the world. In the Eastern United States, we yet again have the feeling of being in a small ship, held together under a common and turbulent sky, living in the hands of One Creator.
Painting by Ludolf Bakhuizen (1630-1708)