Going Together

This German airplane crash has caused all the usual speculation about cause–and in this case I mean human and company failure. The co-pilot hid his illnesses (mental and physical) and the company–or maybe the whole industry–probably doesn’t do a frequent or thorough enough job checking its pilots’ competence. I’m sure that will be remedied.

The other speculation about cause (for anybody who is inclined that way at all) is more in the spiritual nature. Specifically, why those 148 people? Was their number up–was it their fate to leave this life on that day in that way? With such a large number at once, such wonderings tend to be diluted. A more pointed example and one that would cause more supernatural musings would be if, for example, a piece of metal fell from high atop a construction site on a large crowd walking below and killed just one person–leaving another hundred or so completely untouched. Wouldn’t that make you wonder?

Millions were killed in WW2, so people (again, whoever is inclined that way) don’t pause so much to wonder why God chose those millions instead of other millions. Same when hundreds of thousands die in a tidal wave or flood.
But the dilution factor aside, there is still always the question–asked by soldiers and civilians alike during a war or other monstrous catastrophe. Why did the guy next to me get it and not me? Why the woman’s house next door and not mine get hit by the tornado?

The primitively superstitious/religious might have the insular narcissism to imagine it was because they went to church more often or led a “better” life that they were spared.
After the last big Haitian earthquake, I heard an Haitian American cab-driver say that all those people were killed because they were blasphemous and didn’t obey God. In an interview with someone in Haiti whose family had been wiped out, a man said, through his tears, “Why did God do this to us? We have always been good Catholics?”
Wasn’t it Pat Robertson (or some demented con-man like him) who suggested that the people who died in the World Trade Center attacks died because they were heathens and hedonists–not real Christians? After all, they already lived in the American Sodom and Gomorah.

Thorton Wilder wrote an interesting novel back in the Twenties (The Bridge of St. Louis Rey) about just such religious and philosophical ponderings. A priest witnessed the death  of a particular group of persons killed just outside of Lima Peru in 1714 when an Inca rope bridge broke and dropped them deep into a chasm. The novel is (among other things) a novel about why THOSE people.
For over a century, thousands of people had crossed that bridge without incident–and in one moment, a chosen handful of people went down to their deaths.
Yes, of course, it could have simply been wear and tear to the bridge and it snapped at just that moment. But the priest wanted to know (cosmically) why not ten minutes before or ten minutes later–with a different group of individuals?
Just like with this plane crash (I’m sure tens of thousands had flown this route before)–and a lot of other plane crashes and bridge collapses and gas explosions, etc. etc.
Why some people and not others? It’s been years since I read Wilder’s novel and I don’t remember what the priest’s conclusions were. Of course, since he was a priest and it was 1714, seeking religious answers to such questions was far more standard and accepted than it would be in our brave new world of science and technology.

On that German flight there were, no doubt, mostly innocent, decent, people and a probably, as in any group of that size, a few bad characters–the kind where you might say, “They had it coming”. Some were religious, probably most were not. Still, I’m figuring most of the people reading this think what I basically think: It was just pure bad luck. Goodness or God or fate had nothing to do with it.
But is there not some little, primitive stirring in recesses of your brain that makes wonder just a little?

What I get out of it–and this is what I get out of almost everything I see, hear and read about these days–is how connected everybody and everything is. The welfare and health of one person is the welfare and health of everyone. The destruction of one patch of earth is the destruction of the whole earth.
There is an ancient saying in Judaism (paraphrasing here) that, “he who saves one person it is as if he had saved the entire world”. And the reverse can be said as well. You kill one person and you are killing the whole human race.

This pilot’s dark, fatal troubles caused the death of all these people. You can’t prevent things like this but where is the blindingly obvious and common understanding that we are all one soul divided into several billion bodies– And that the patch of earth at your feet is part to the whole planet. This understanding, this divine awareness (“…send not to know for whom the bell tolls…”) can only make the world a better place.
We are all in the same family, but there has always been and still is a war in our world; between exclusivity and inclusivity; between partisanship and non-partisanship. Right now the whole world appears to be, increasingly, a house divided against itself. What are the odds on how long it will stand?


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