Thursday, April 18, 2024

BC’S BARBADOS: Luck of the devil


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WHEN JAPAN’S WORST earthquake hit last Friday, followed by that speeding wall of water sweeping away whole factories as if they were crumbs of bread, I remembered a friend’s daughter was working as an English language tutor there.
When I eventually got through to his phone – all his friends were worried – he said: “She’s in Canada. As luck would have it, she left hours before the earthquake struck. Wish I had that kind of luck at the race track!”
I put down the phone, relieved on his behalf, grateful on my own, not to have to add his particular worry and potential grief to a heart already heavy with the general tragedy in Japan, as well as the particularly exquisite pain of the death of the four-year-old son of another friend, buried on the day the Earth shook so catastrophically.
“There is nothing sadder,” I said to my wife last Thursday night, “than a small coffin.”
I woke Friday morning to the overwhelming proof that there is.
My friend, a realist like me, long ago abandoned the notion of a caring, all-powerful God as irreconcilable with the suffering he permits; or, if you have complete faith in him, causes; or, if you have complete faith in him and hold an important position in a religious organization, requires.
My friend’s phrase “as luck would have it” summed up the truth of the situation: her luck could just as easily have run bad, and she could have been walking to her plane at Sendai Airport when that fast-moving wall of mud and debris swept planes and trucks up into a broken pile like a hand-broom and dustpan.
Instead of the FaceBook “pic” of her cuffing down a banana split at the Eaton Centre Dairy Queen, we might have seen her crumpled body on the news, the way we saw that hand and arm waving that cloth through the upper floor window.
My realist friend and I know how incredibly lucky his daughter was; my religious friends, though, would be in church all now if their own daughters had been on, say, BW902 instead of BW413.
They would be thanking God non-stop and deliriously for having spared their child; and there is nothing I could tell them to lead them to the truth: God didn’t deliberately single her out for salvation while equally calculatedly flinging others into damnation:
“Fu Cheng, Li Fook, Wang Yu, Chin Sing, all of wunnah suffer terrifying deaths: Aida Kate, you go clubbing on Yonge Street. There. So be it.”
It’s really not so much an act of God as the luck of the devil.
If I lack faith in an omnipotent, loving God, it is because I can see the proof he himself apparently sends that he doesn’t. My acknowledgement that, if God does exist, he either doesn’t care or cannot intervene – which makes him not very much of a God – doesn’t mean I don’t wish everyone in Japan well or reduce my compassion for them; I just won’t kowtow to any creature capable of inflicting such pain.
If he exists in the way we seem to imagine he does, God seems not to be so much great as greatly disturbed.


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