Awe: “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime” (Merriam-Webster)

I spent a good part of yesterday (Sunday, September 10, 2017) watching Hurricane Irma blast Florida on live TV. I watched a similar fate befall Houston last week. I’m not a sadistic person, and I sent my best well-wishes to friends out there. I’m very sad about the destruction it’s caused, especially the people it’s killed. I don’t enjoy seeing things destroyed, or seeing people hurt. I also do have better things to do with my Sunday afternoons. But…

I am in awe.

Not as in “it’s a message from God,” as Kirk Cameron apparently suggested the other day. No, not that at all.

It’s more like what Carl Sagan wrote: “A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths” (from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space).

I’m in awe of the power of wind to combine with water and travel in a swirling spiral across the ocean.

I’m in awe of how forcefully palm fronds can whip in the wind. And of how so many palm trees seemed to withstand it.

I’m in awe of how meteorological models can predict these disasters, kind of like I’m in awe of how we knew precisely when the eclipse would start, reach totality, and fizzle out. Of course, hurricanes are more capricious, and I’m in awe of that variability, too.

Although human activities are clearly making hurricanes worse, of course we don’t cause them. We have no control over where one goes once it’s formed, or whether it forms at all, or whose home region will be in its way. We try to control so much, yet hurricanes remind us of how powerless we are. What can we really do but board up our windows and evacuate, or stock up on water and canned food and wait it out – or watch it unfold on TV as the sun beams through the window?

That’s why I spent so much time on my butt yesterday, why I couldn’t help it, and why I’d do it again.