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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Gaea Farts: A Personal Meditation Upon Natural Disasters
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Age Group: Adult
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Posted: October 30th. 2005
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Given current world events, natural disasters have not been easy to ignore. Indeed, they are pretty much all that is there when one turns on the television, checks email, listens to the radio, reads the newspaper, or talks with people at a local coffeehouse. Since it is such a constant topic of debate and introspection, I decided to write this: partly in clarification of my own views and thoughts, but also to add my own voice to the already diverse sea of voices at large.
Whenever natural disasters come about, let alone ANY type of human tragedy, members of certain faiths invariably brand it an 'act of God' (or Gods). A related theory, popular among the Abrahamic traditions, is that the Divine does this to 'test' human integrity.
Now, this is just personal opinion, and not being an Abrahamic follower, I leave their God to better define his policies to his faithful. However, it seems to me, that a Deity who enjoys thwacking its followers just to see what they are made of is just a tad sadistic and immature. To constantly question and test people, to see if they are 'truly devout, ' seems to speak greatly about a certain Deity's insecurity.
Granted, this brings up two points, in retrospect. On one hand, it is a glaring truth that most people mistake their own egos for the voice of Deity. Since divine revelation must travel through a human conduit, it stands to reason that ALL sacred texts are incomplete and corrupt. Ergo, the cries of 'God is smiting us for our sins' or 'God is testing us' may be prime examples of an honest miscommunication on our part.
On the other hand, this brings up the debate as to whether or not the Gods take a vested interest in the day-to-day lives of their followers. I surmise it depends on the Deity we are talking about. Some Deities - such as the Olympians, the Hebraic Adonai, the Christian Jesus, or the Santerian Orishas - enjoy personal relationships with their votaries. And Gods such as this certainly intervene in mortal affairs and speak through natural phenomenon. However, this is more a means of communication. Such deities are rarely seen AS the natural phenomenon, but as wielders thereof. For instance, a Hellenic friend (and quite a devout Priest of Zeus) frequently receives flashes of lightning as signs of favor when he does ritual for his patron.
(Contrast this with the Greek Orthodox grandmother of a Hellenic practitioner. Her granddaughter was holding a festival for Zeus in the backyard of the family home. Grandma screamed up at the sky with: "I do not believe in you, Zeus. " Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hit the ground two feet from where grandma stood. She ran into the house, shrieking: "Okay, okay, I believe in you, but I don't have to like you!")
Then, there are the Primal or Elemental Deities. These Deities, while generally favorable to humanity, have a limited awareness of the human experience. They are rarely, if ever, anthropomorphized. A key example is Pele - wrongly taken for a generic 'Volcano Goddess, ' even though her mythology points to Her being one specific volcano in Hawaii.
(A third category could be added, where there are highly philosophical notions of absolute Deities. Examples can include the Christian 'God the Father, ' the Cabalistic Ain Soph, the Egyptian Neter, the Platonic 'One, ' the Hindu Brahman, and the Buddhist Voice concept. Connected with this are the Transcendentalist and Deistic philosophies popular in colonial New England, which held that God created Earth and humanity, then left us alone to pursue other goals. As such, God only intervenes in grand-scale events, when we have screwed things up so badly that it warrants His attention.)
Since my path is heavily indebted to Greek traditions of antiquity, I relate to the Earth as Gaea (or, more accurately, Ge). Apart from Her part in the creation of the Gods and forging the material world, there is no real mention of Her in the Mythos. We know that she is generally favorable to her children - which run the gamut from the Gods to humanity to animals to plants to the monsters of legend. While kindly disposed, with a beneficent awareness of us, we are simply not big enough for Her to take a vested interest in our well-being. We can picture this if we equate Her to our body, and us to the cells and atoms which make us up (or the tiny bacteria living on our skin).
Now, if we carry this further...the state of our body affects the state of each cell residing in us (and the bacteria just here for the ride). This is the way I relate to large-scale natural events - Gaea had indigestion and passed wind. And, taking the principle of As Above, So Below yet further, as we occasionally 'break a big one, ' so too must Gaea occasionally let all loose to relieve her own internal pressure.
Doesn't this just reduce human tragedy to a cosmic OOPS? Not necessarily. While the Deities do not test us per se, they do watch for how we act in times of chaos. They look to see how we react, whether we give up or dig ourselves up and out. Where necessary, they intervene to protect, to counsel, and to aid. And, it doesn't hurt (when situations are dire) to seek them out for help, as some Gods hold off from interfering in human affairs unless they are directly called upon.
I am always amazed at how often we act surprised when natural phenomena act on a grand scale. I guess its human nature, since nature (and the Gods) are, well, bigger and grander than us. However, to quote an old Australian proverb, 'the Earth, she gives us signs.' During the tsunamis in Southeast Asia, all the wild animals sought higher ground a few hours before the activity commenced. We humans - perhaps Gaea's stupidest children - go down to the beach to watch the tidal waves. (And then wonder why so many bumbling tourists got killed.)
The last sentence may brand me as cold and sadistic, in the eyes of 'more enlightened' individuals. While I certainly have compassion for the suffering of others, I refuse to get worked up because Gaea shifted her position in bed. One can be altruistic without bordering on neurotic pity. The best way to honor the Gods is to emulate their virtues. To quote a Buddhist friend of mine, "True Compassion is doing what is required, to honor the Buddha within all beings." Sometimes, that compassionate action must take the form of showing people how and where to build safer homes or an occasional slap across the face to make people take care of their own lives.
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Bio: Nemesis is a votary of the Goddess Diana and an initiate of Sicilian Traditional Craft. He heads the Hounds of Artemis coven, co-facilitates the Stars of Elysium Temple, and sits on the Council of Hierophants for the Holy Order of Triformis.
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