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that?s god (9-14-1)
To begin, I am an atheist. Actually, I am one of those that most of the time doesn't even appreciate the term "atheist" or "atheism." An "ism" is inherently about belief. Atheism, however it may be defined, is about the absence of belief for me. When someone invents a better word, I?ll be sure to use it. For now, I?ll just say I do not believe that god exists. And, that is to be differentiated from the very similar sentence, "I believe god doesn't exist." But, I suppose getting into the difference there would divert my point here longer than I mean to, so I?ll leave it at that and get on with it.
Tonight, watching the news, I had a thought, seeing a particular image, "that's god." But, let me backtrack briefly before I explain that.
Living in Arkansas last spring, I had the opportunity to walk by, and stand before (as I just had to stop and stare at it) a building that had collapsed. It was only a two story brick building, only partially collapsed. Somewhere between being old and near train tracks and possibly related to, as it was initially reported in the local paper, a tornado passing through, the structure just gave up the ghost and potential energy turned to kinetic and down came one whole side of the building. Anyway, standing before it, seeing not just the rubble but also the bent and bending parts of what remained of the second floor, which also had a quite surreal desk sitting with one of it's four feet on nothing but air, I was struck by the forces involved in the destruction of such a place. We take for granted the structures we are in each day, just how much planning and energy (manpower and physical, 'potential' energy) goes into just making buildings stand.
The world trade center towers were that taken to an extreme. The tallest building I?ve been near (and in) has 60 floors, barely more than half those towers. Just seeing pictures of how the rest of Manhattan was dwarfed by those buildings can be staggering, if a moment is taken to really think about them. I wish I had had the chance to be near them, to look up from the ground to the top, to look down from the top to the ground, to really experience firsthand how large they were.
Each time I see the footage of them falling, it's a little more, at the same time, real and surreal. Real, and staggering. Surreal, and near-unimaginable. Unimaginable, except there it is, right there. And, I?ve even imagined such destruction before. But each viewing shows how very different imagination can be from the reality. But, that difference is not my point here. My point here lies in the simple power of the images.
Two giants. Two marvels of architectural engineering. Two symbols of the arrogance of our culture. And I do not mean arrogance in any negative way. We once had imperialism and expansionism. There were new lands to conquer and populate. There are no new lands anymore, so we build on what we have. We build up. Bigger. Better (supposedly). Those two towers, and buildings like them the world over, exemplify a new expansionism. And, their destruction is comparable to the continent being razed in our colonial days.
Standing before a partially collapsed two story brick building, I felt a certain insignificance, a powerlessness. I could imagine being there as it fell, but I know the experience of it would eclipse my imagining many times over. And, the collapse of those towers in Manhattan, the images of it over television? I can feel something that only fits the word "god" in that. Three thousand miles away, and I feel the waves of that power. God is no being to me. But, destruction like this, being several decades and many thousands of miles farther away from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is as close to god as I will likely ever get. I want, as horrifying as I know it would be for me, to be there, to see the rubble, the damage all around, the dust and smoke in the air. I want to be unable to breathe. I want to be wary of nearby buildings giving into their damaged bits and collapsing around me. I want to be near something so powerful.
Simply put I want god. I want to experience power on such a scale that, if I were more primitive minded, I would know that there were some being, infinitely powerful, watching over us all.
But, I know there isn't.
It's not about belief anymore. But, I understand the belief. I understand the need. I understand that feeling.
I don't try to turn people into atheists. I know that god as a being and god as only a word grand enough to describe things like this large scale destruction can exist side by side.
God is, for me, the forces out of our control. If someone needs to believe that god is also a being that controls those forces, so be it. In the face of 'god,' either way, I?d be awestruck.