Why Hurricane Sandy Made Us Happy

“The hurricane blew away the sad, noxious particles which befoul the sorrowful old Eastern sky and Midge no longer felt obliged to keep her face stiff. They were able to talk. It was best of all when the hurricane’s eye came with its so-called ominous stillness. It was not ominous. Everything was yellow and still and charged up with value.”

– The Last Gentleman, Walker Percy

Sandy was undoubtedly a very bad thing, but our anticipation and witness of the hurricane was a perversely happy event. It could well be that I’m only an immature teenager who delights in destruction, and that no one will relate to these thoughts, so, to separate the sane from the mad, have a quick quiz:

1. When you heard about the coming hurricane, you were:

a) Worried and depressed.

b) Excited and oddly elated.

2. When you heard that it was not one storm but three, you were:

a) Even more worried and depressed.

b) Even more elated, prone to staring out of windows.

3. When you looked up the projections for the hurricane’s path, you found yourself:

a) Thanking God (or Nothing) that your home wasn’t in its path.

b) Perversely wishing your home was at least a little in the hurricane’s path.

4. When you heard that the storm was being called ‘Frankenstorm’, the hurricane became:

a) More monstrous and terrifying.

b) Awesome.

5. When the hurricane came and all it seemed like was a little rain, you were:

a) Grateful.

b) Disappointed.

6. When the hurricane came and knocked over trees and turned the power off, you were (initially):

a) Sad.

b) Happy.

If you answered “b” to any of these questions, you are odd. Don’t feel too bad: While shamelessly lording over a hurricane tracker, I attempted to click and drag the hurricane image closer to my location on the map, before realizing my gross overestimation of the Internet. (I would hardly expect any one in the New York area to answer “b” easily, as any perverse happiness they might taken in the oncoming day of wrath has been checked and countered by the massive inconvenience of evacuation, the real, tangible fear for the safety of loved ones, sobered by the reality of lives lost and homes destroyed. Know that my prayers are with you.)

As for the rest of us awful, terrible people: Though I can’t give a mathematical reason for our gleeful grin in the face of destruction, I’ll at least give a partial answer, an answer constructed by the late great novelist Walker Percy.

It goes like this: We denizens of the Scientific Age know that “the organism is needy or not needy accordingly as needs are satisfied or not satisfied by its environment”. We also know that humans are merely intelligent animals, and that we occupy no special moral or spiritual realm. The same truth applied to the organism should apply to us: No matter how complex our needs may be, if we have all our needs fulfilled, then we — like bunnies with food, shelter, and a mate — should be happy. If our environment is a good one, we are content. If our environment is a bad one, we are not.

Thus the “self sees its only recourse as an endless round of work, diversion, and consumption of goods and services”. That is to say, the modern, scientific-aged American concerns himself entirely with the constant maintenance of a good environment. Despite this, and even despite actually achieving this good environment, he still feels lonely, isolated, and oppressed by some “thing”, some malaise that he can’t shake. This is the age of anti-depressant drugs and therapy, of elderly suicide and bored twenty-three year-olds. This is an age of dissatisfaction, despite every conceivable form of entertainment, knowledge, pleasure, convenience, and the fact that most Americans meet the quintessential demand of any good, American environment — they go to church.

Odd, isn’t it? The self “has come to see itself as an organism in an environment and so can’t understand why it feels so bad in the best of all possible environments — say, a good family and a good home in a good neighborhood in East Orange on a fine Wednesday afternoon – and so finds itself secretly relishing bad news, assassinations, plane crashes, and the misfortunes of neighbors, and even comes secretly to hope for catastrophe, earthquake, hurricane, wars, apocalypse — anything to break out of the iron grip of immanence.” (Lost in the Cosmos)

The hurricane relieves us. The things we seek to fend off despair with, the things we secretly doubt have any ability to bring us happiness, all of these are decimated in the face of the Frankenstorm. What does your money matter, when there is a whirlpool of destruction bearing down on rich and poor alike? What does your college education matter — certainly supposed to bring you happiness — when the ice giants are uprooting trees? What does your neighborhood and your good school system matter, your wardrobe, your iPhone, your car, your savings, your humanistic outlook, your eternal politeness? Hurricane, dammit!

There is a reason we can’t help but think of The Last Judgment when the iron clouds descend on us. It’s not that both God and the Hurricane are sublime and scary, but that they are both honest. You are only yourself in a hurricane — the winds aren’t concerned with your successful career.  We are made happy because, stripped of caring about good environment and the constant upkeep of happiness-making externals, we experience ourselves. We confront the self, the thing that matters. To a greater or lesser to degree we our forced to simply be human, and — for but a moment — we are confirmed in our suspicions: Happiness is not found in our environment. We laugh while discussing the coming destruction, not as men-from-good-families or women-with-degrees, but as ourselves in a hurricane. We feel like little kids again — but what is a little kid except a being who is totally himself, without adult pretensions, safeguards, and abstractions? “Terrible things are happening, people are getting killed, you’re liable to get killed, there is a certain exhiliration. It comes from a peculiar sense of self…”

We feel small and naked and happy, not because we the hurricane is big, but because at the final count we are small and naked, and that’s the happy thought the hurricane reveals. Given that we are happy when all our supposed needs are rendered unimportant, it seems to follow that no combination of need-fulfillment will ever render us truly happy. We are not simply intelligent animals. We are a perverse race. We do not belong. For myself, given that this existence is intolerable and this world is vale of tears, it is good to know I do not belong.

“Hurricanes, which are very bad things, somehow neutralize the other bad thing which has no name.”

— Walker Percy, Lancelot

If you are able to, give alms to those aiding the victims of Hurricane Sandy in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

  • Elizabeth A Gill

    You said ice giants. Do you mean to say that this hurricane was organized by Loki?

    I knew it!!!

    P.S. It’s kind of sad that I totally ignored your point by zoning in on a vague (so vague that you didn’t mean it) pop-culture reference. Sorry.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527824553 John Tuttle

      Actually, it isn’t a pop-culture reference. It’s a norse mythology reference, that was used by pop-culture.

  • http://twitter.com/lomuscio James Lomuscio

    Springsteen hits on this theme in his song “The Promised Land”, describing the coming storm in terms of catharsis.

    “There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
    I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
    Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
    That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
    Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
    Blow away the dreams that break your heart
    Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted.”

    It’s well worth listening to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrKh1zxv_rQ

  • http://twitter.com/DMJSD Darlene

    Your picture of Sawyer makes me happy. This picture (http://actsoftheapostasy.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/sandy.jpg?w=523&h=348) makes me very happy (though it could use some ice giants). That Sandy, so soon after Irene deposited a foot of water on the first floor of my brother’s house, has deposited a foot of water on the *second* floor, does not. Though I’ll cop to three “b”s. I love a good storm; not so much a fan of the aftermath.

  • http://twitter.com/Zweifs Katy Zweifel

    You’ve explained my problem better than I’ve ever been able to. I think
    it started after watching Twister. I wasn’t scared, I wanted to be in
    the movie.

    • http://twitter.com/Zweifs Katy Zweifel

      I might have answered all “b”

  • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

    Hide your kids, hide your wives, hide your husbands…errbody-is-getting-happy-out-here …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000909947326 Nick Corrado

    Marc Barnes, ever-present defender of the weird! I admit I agree as usual with you, though for slightly different reasons. I relish the storms because they slow up everything, even if for just a little while. It’s a nice respite from our hurried, self-important lives, a time when we can just sit back and take things slow, which is certainly a more peaceful way to live. I have to refer to Wm P. Young’s The Shack–he put it better than I ever could have:
    “There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly releases you from expectations, performance demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely a corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified silence from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, and the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/pamela.w.ward.56 Pamela Webster Ward

      Yes, that’s what I love about them, the complete cessation of the ordinary. All I have done for two days is walk my dogs in the pouring rain and wind (which makes them wildly happy), eat things I never eat, read books, take baths in candlelight, and sleep until 9 am with all the curtains closed. I loaded up the dogs (they go everywhere with me, they’re my surrogate children) and we went and watched the river overflow its banks and pour through my small town. Trees came down everywhere, puddles turned into vast mysterious lakes, clear and green. And nothing but the sound of the wind. Utterly lovely.

  • Sarah

    I was just happy the media switched from politics to talking about the storm 24/7

  • Erik Bootsma

    You should read Philip Rieff’s “The Triumph of the Therapeutic.” Written back in 1966 he talks much about the rise of a worldview that only looks for therapy or how to “cope” with the world, rather than one that seeks to truly better our natures.

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2006/07/06/prophet-of-the-therapeutic-age-philip-rieff-dead-at-age-83/

  • Leanne

    Well, I answered “b” to a lot of those questions, but two of my children live in Brooklyn, one actually in Red Hook, and my elderly father/stepmother live in the west village. Four of my five brothers and their families live in Brooklyn, and one in Maspeth. We own property in Southampton and in the South Carolina barrier islands.

    So, no, not really “elated” or “happy”. Mostly just worried and frustrated, doubly so because I’m thousands of miles away and can’t do much to help.

    Good news is everyone is okay, although my son is without power (he’s the Red Hook kid — Zone A — and he has no job to go to until they re-open the Brooklyn Navy Yards, which he was sort of happy about until he realized it’s not much fun having an impromptu vacation thrust upon one when there’s no way to get anywhere), and my father and his wife (fragile, recovering from cancer/chemo) are without power and stuck on a higher floor in their building over by the Hudson.

    Property is okay, minor wind/rain damage, no biggie, nothing we’re not used to from past storms.

    I’m pretty sure most people who are truly adversely affected by the storm are not in any way gleeful or elated. NYC is a mess right now, and people are not getting paid because they can’t get to their jobs and don’t know when they can. Many people will lose at least a full week’s pay, and that’s a pretty big deal for a lot of folks.

    Yes, yes, Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season, and all that, but this was a very serious and destructive storm that has impacted millions of people and will continue to impact millions of people for a very long time. Please try to be a little less glib and cavalier, especially since several dozen people have already been killed by the storm (and I’m sure that number will rise over the coming days).

    • Leanne

      Oops, meant I answered “a”, not “b”.

    • Rachel K

      Honestly, I usually love your stuff, Marc, but I have to agree with Leanne on this one (well, not in the above post where she talks about stony-hearted pricks, but in this one). If Sandy had ended up going out to sea with no ill effects, it would be one thing–as nervous as inclement weather makes me, it’s always a bit anticlimactic when a storm that’s supposed to be a big deal ends up being nothing. (Granted, I might only feel that way because I’m a teacher and I like missing school…) It’s another matter entirely to talk about the storm as a good thing when it’s left people dead or homeless.

    • Ells

      I know people in New York and Jersey who were excited but also fearful about the upcoming storm. Humans are complex creatures and are capable of feeling what Marc described AND vast concern for their neighbors (and themselves, since, well, they were there). This isn’t just the opinion or experience of outsiders comfortably looking at an event from afar.

    • Ells

      And funnily enough, they were the ones that answered mostly B’s, while *I* was the one slightly further away (but still in the effected storm area) and answered with A’s.

    • ladycygnus

      I don’t think he was being glib or cavalier – he mentioned several times the suffering of others. I think he was honestly trying to analyze why such a horrible event makes him excited. I’ve experienced it myself when the derecho came through, we knew the wind was bad and there were trees swaying everywhere, power flickered then the transformer blew down the street and we heard it when the power went out. Yet through all this the feeling I had was “wee – now to get the candles!” My heart was racing with fear and I was worried about people being hurt, but I was also honestly elated. Another time I was in a microburst…on a bicycle…and had to take shelter under an open clock tower (four pillars with a box on top – not much shelter), yet I was THRILLED and video recorded it.

      I suppose this is why people love roller coasters, for that feeling of fear/excitement/terror/elation that comes. Now, since I have a phobia of falling these just terrify me, I could never fathom the “fun” of being on that kind of ride. But I know the “fun” of being in a storm. Perhaps there are others who have phobias of storms such that they cannot relate to this particular aspect when confronted with a natural disaster? Or even, if they do not have any kind of assurance that they will make it?

      I was outside of the path of this hurricane, but my parents lived closer and I didn’t hear from them after it passed, so I was worried as well. But I can’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed that all we got was some drizzle.

  • Mark Duggan

    Geez, I’m from New Orleans and living in New Jersey and still found myself thinking “B” on most of these–even in thinking back to last night when the power went off. My first thoughts were “Now I won’t waste time on the internet!” Now that it’s back, here I am commenting on blogs.

  • Scot

    Good job, once again. People will tell you that you went too far, that this is a “serious” matter and you aren’t treating it as such. I think the people affected need more humor than those unaffected do. Trust me, if those without power right now could comment, I would hope some of them could find humor in the situation – much for the same reasons you talked about – being exposed and naked confronted with only ourselves is scary, but also funny when we realize God takes us less seriously than we do becuase he knows how pathetic we are more than we do. Don’t agree? How serious would you take a lunatic in an asylum who sincerely and seriously thought he had no legs as he ran crazily through the hallway?

    What you discuss, Marc, is a great grace from God. Don’t listen to people who say you went too far – you found grace in the situation, a grace that’s hard to accept, the truth of ourselves laid bare, but one that is necessary for our purification. We are not good people. We are sinners who mess up everything we do. Those who don’t agree need to read again, cause you kind of missed the point…

    • Leanne

      Uh, no, because the reality is that there’s a time and place for this kind of piece, and while the bodies of the dead are still warm ain’t the time.

      I honestly wonder if Barnes is capable of real human feeling.

      I guess for the little nimrods at U. of Stupidville there in flyoverland, this was all a big joke. For people who were REALLY affected in REAL ways by the storm, and for those of us who are really, truly worried about our families, no, it’s not funny or thrilling. So sorry I can’t laugh at the notion of my very sick step mother trying to grope her way down eight flights of blackened stairs out onto a flooded street.

      Thank God my son was kind enough to bike across the Williamsburg Bridge and backpack food and extra batteries and flashlights over to them. I guess he could’ve sat around and waxed poetic about HIMSELF and HIS feelings instead.

      Whatever.

      You really are a stony-hearted, selfish little lot of immature, self-absorbed, unfeeling pricks.

      • Scot

        You too! : )

      • Scot

        But don’t get me wrong, I understand I am a stony-hearted, selfish lot all on my own, but at least Marc began by affirming his prayers for those affected by the storm. I, on the other hand, should have, but didn’t. For that I apologize, but know that I really have been praying for people like your step-mother all along.

        …Still, the same applies to me as applies to you. And I thank you because I couldn’t have picked out better words to describe human beings than you did in your last post, Leanne – very biblical in many instances about our human condition, except for pricks…still searching the good book for that one. If you (or anyone) thinks you are not stony-hearted, selfish, immature, self-absorbed, and unfeeling, you are deluding yourselves. It is a grace to realize you are the same as, or worse than, the person you most despise for all the right reasons.

        I think Marc is talking about the towers we build up for ourselves being crumbled to the ground, when all social inequalities between us and the homeless man have been stripped away, how similar we really are. It is us coming face to face with the truth, and that cannot be stifled just because the truth is hard to hear at the time…often when it is hardest to hear is when we need to hear it most.

        So yes, I am a stony-hearted, selfish, immature, self-absorbed “prick”…and so are you and everyone else. Don’t take offense to it, but pray with it…you will find you the divide between us dissipate.

        I pray for the safety of you and your family, but if you want more comfort and consolation beyond that with people’s posts and comments, perhaps this forum is not the place for you to find it. This is a forum for discussion on Marc’s blog, and not a place for people to make each other feel better. People here will pray for you because we love you, but it’s unreasonable for you to expect anything to go uncriticized here…it’s just what this comment section is for.

        • Leanne

          Fake disclamers don’t give anyone a get-out-of-jail-free card. No one’s perfect, but Barnes is particularly detached from normal human emotion and appropriate behavior. He seems to specialize in dehumanizing others for his own personal benefit. His bullshit disclaimer, obviously tossed in at the last minute, is no better than “I don’t mean to offend, but…”, or “I’m not a racist, but….”, etc.

          You were the one who made the nasty comment about those of us who think the storm is serious, or that Barnes went too far being the ones who are out of line. Fuck you. You obviously don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but yourself. You don’t love anyone but yourself. You don’t even know what love is. So spare us your prayers — it’s not like you’re praying to anything but your own ego.

          • Scot

            Thank you for your kind and loving words. You affirm everything I said before, that I am selfish, and don’t give a “flying fuck” about anyone but myself…I agree, but the grace here is to not exempt yourself from what you are accusing me of. I’m sure you do the same, but it just comes out in different ways… Marc’s interest in this post I believe was to point out something about human nature – we are all selfish and tend to care more about our own happiness even in the face of destruction. Leanne, you just did the same thing to me – rejoicing in cussing me out in your last post. It’s alright, no harm done to me, but realize that while some people rejoice in the destruction of the storm, another inclination fallen human nature has is to rejoice in the destruction of people (tearing them down so that you feel better). Think about it. It’s what you just did, and it’s also the same inclination I’ve been trying to resist while writing this! We are the same, you and I, so stop the insults towards me that subjectively make you feel better than me. You are not better than me and I am not better than you. The storm is an image Marc is using to make us “level” with each other in our smallness. To quote C.S. Lewis: “We’re all in the same boat, and that boat is sinking.”

          • Leanne

            No, my dear. We are NOT the same. Stop trying to throw this back at me. There’s something wrong with you — you are incapable of caring about anything or anyone but yourself.

            Marc’s interest in this post was to make an appalling display of his dysfunctional, warped, narcissistic ego, is what it was. Nothing more, nothing less.

            I don’t “rejoice” in cussing you out. I really do believe you’re a fucking asshole. That’s who you are, what you are, all you will ever be, and you prove it over and over again every time you try to excuse your sick delight in the suffering and misery of other people.

            I don’t “feel better” than you. That you can only make this about egos and personalities proves YET AGAIN that there’s something deeply wrong with you.

            The storm in this case is not “an image”, you dumb fuck. Are you fucking retarded? Instead of using your computer to post here, why not google some of the stories and photographs of the REAL DAMAGE AND DESTRUCTION that is the result of this REAL STORM.

            This is not the time to use other people’s suffering to pimp out your ego, you rotten, selfish little shit. Shame on you, and shame on the really shitty parents who raised you to be such a complete piece of garbage. What a spectacularly lousy job they did. Too bad you people didn’t drown or get electrocuted to death. No big loss in your case, and I doubt anyone would miss you. Frankly, the world would be a better place today if it had been you lot instead of others.

          • Scot

            Thanks for proving to everyone reading the love of destruction that Marc was talking about. You really didn’t have to help out like that. I thought his article expressed it well, but your comments here about me really do prove that human nature is messed up, mine, yours, everyone’s, in how we treat others.

          • Ells

            Haha, so true. Wow. That last paragraph… appropriate for Halloween… nightmare-inducing.

          • Ells

            I know of good New Yorkers who don’t need the “tough guy” reputation to intimidate false respect from people. In fact, it just perpetuates stereotypes that don’t help. Please don’t give the rejected Bayside prophecies credibility (“Your city is as a cesspool. All the evils come as a nucleus here and fan out. When the hand comes upon you, you will be leveled for your licentiousness, your greed, your immorality.”) by showing such a garbage attitude to an article you don’t seem to get the point of. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to be proud of one’s own vindictiveness. Also, do not project your personality onto everyone else, thinking we lack empathy because we can see some good points made in the article.

          • Leanne

            Sweetie, I give as good as I get and then some. That’s the thing about us NYers. Nicest fucking people on the planet until you cross us the wrong way, and then God help you. We’re pretty tribal that way. You fucked with NY on this one, asshole. Watch yourself.

          • Мария Сергеева

            Despite the language chosen, I think that Leanne has made good points. I think it is indeed inappropriate to continue arguing with someone who has experienced loss or sickening worry once they point it out to you. If, in this case, someone has a differing opinion, don’t think you MUST change their minds. Raw emotion doesn’t do well with that nonsense. If I (God forbid) had a child die and, immediately thereafter, was informed that it truly was better that way and I should be happy for them, I’d probably punch them in the face, even if what they said was objectively true. We’re not objective creatures. Anyway, I think you didn’t show the basic respect necessary someone who’s going througha difficult time, instead you, immaturely and rather self-importantly, tried to push your viewpoint on her. Not nice.

            BESIDES all this. I think you’re mistaken. I don’t think that this is any kind of “hey look, we’ll all the same — so self-centered, even in storms” thing. It was illustrating a general truth about humans liking that, which forces them to be solely themselves, unedited and uncut. Atleast, that’s what was written. So probably what it was.

            Lastly, have I ignored the comments too much, or does it strike anyone else that the author never responds down here? Sort of strange. Random people insisting they know the thoughts, intent, etc of the author with no clarification from said author.

            I am hoping this entry is a one-of-a-kind deal. More of these will undo all the good done in previous entries. It’s not the illustration that’s the problem, it’s the chosen subject matter. Bad form. (Bad form, Pe-tah, bad form..

            Maria

          • Scot

            Not “trying” to change minds, just writing my thoughts. Could I have used less sarcasm here? Yep. At the same time, Leanne cannot expect people on the internet to shut up and say nothing so as not to offend her. This is a forum for discussion, and well, if you keep coming back to discuss, expect responses that don’t agree with you.

            I do like what you wrote about what you thought the article was saying. I can see now I was taking it a step further in discussing our self-centeredness. While I still think my point is valid and true (when all is stripped away, we stand before God all the same – so the delight we may feel in someone else’s suffering is shown to us more clearly), it may not have been implied by Marc.

            Think of people standing around, taking delight in watching a street fight.

            Think of how we as Americans will choose to buy the cheaper product even though we know that product is made overseas by underpaid workers living in terrible conditions.

            “Hey, as long as we get what we want” seems to be the motto. Wrong, of course, but why did we feel that way? It’s something universally wrong with all humans, not just Americans, not just conservatives or liberals, not just religious or atheists – everyone.

            I affirmed the anger Leanne had towards me. Never once did I say she was wrong for feeling angry. We SHOULD feel angry at this, but we also should recognize the same tendency in ourselves and not seek to scapegoat the blame on Marc, me, or anyone who finds a valid point in this entry.

          • Ells

            I didn’t think the Bayside prophecies had any credibility (“Your city is as a cesspool. All the evils come as a nucleus here and fan out. When the hand comes upon you, you will be leveled for your licentiousness, your greed, your immorality.”) until I read the words (or experience the attitude) of people like that from NY.. Hah, I still realize they’re not Church-approved, but… it really doesn’t do anyone any favors to be proud of their vindictiveness. I know of many good New Yorkers. You don’t need the “tough guy” reputation to earn respect. In fact, it just perpetuates stereotypes that do not help.

          • Ebere

            You are freaking out Ma’am. Get a hold on yourself. Shocked to see you have included their parents in your curses, you do not even know them.

          • Leanne

            The parents of these cold hearted little demons are responsible for raising them to be evil little shits. Fucking deal with it, cocksucker.

    • Мария Сергеева

      There was no missing of points. Points were gotten. What is being missed is the real response of someone hurting about something. Priorities. I’m all for a good conversation, but you don’t wander around telling people their emotions are baseless and unwarranted, that’s uncalled for. And what you did. If you, like you insist should be done, had not been attempting to use the comment section to make people (Marc/author) feel good, you would have just written objectively what you thought about what he’d written and that would have been that. Instead, you did a “hey, don’t listen to THAT crazy fool, she’s dumb. And wrong. You’re so cool, I’m glad we’re blog-friends! Btw good post” — which is, of course, going to be taken badly by the lady you say is wrong. Especially when you say she didn’t understand a pretty straightforward post (sort of calling her stupid).

      • Scot

        Guilty as charged. I never meant to single anyone out, but at the time I wrote this, there were a few posts from people treating Marc’s entry from a personal rather than philosophical mind. Understandably so, however, and have written elsewhere that my language here was not the best. You see what happens when you let emotion cloud your writing.

        That being said, I wanted to affirm Marc’s entry. There is an issue that he talks about that I felt not very many people “got.” That did frustrate me to a degree when I wrote this. So it seems to me that this entry is not “straightforward” to many people but is being misunderstood in many instances. No one is ‘stupid’ for not getting it or ‘smart’ for getting it. Some see it when they first read it, some see it after further reading and reflection, and some may even see it with the help of the comments.

        What are we looking to see?

        Simply put: the fact that we feel exhilarated by the coming of a storm, videos and pictures of the storm,is a terrible thought. BUT most people still have the thought, nonetheless – that’s worth discussing.

        Hollywood capitalizes on this interest: Twister, Day After Tomorrow, 2012, etc… People love destruction. That cannot be discounted. Is it wrong? Yes, when pleasure is taken in the discomfort of others, even those far away. But Marc isn’t talking simple morality, but is trying to let us see underneath this issue, into our own messed up hearts that take delight in this stuff.

  • clare bear

    I would like to say you excitement was purely down to an increased sense of community spirit, but it is more than that isn’t it! I to have these Armageddon like fantasies where the B.S. of this world is stripped away and we are all faced with who we are! It is always laced with a feeling of pure freedom and relief. Of not having to fight the good fight alone anymore. I guess it is hard to argue that a hurricane doesn’t exist! We all have to face it. Many people would have had to wonder if they were facing death that night – and were spared. Are we all being given a mock exam before the real thing perhaps?

    • Leanne

      Many people did face death that night, you stupid little twit. And I hope to God you get your wish and know what it’s like to be homeless, without a job, without a place to sleep or stay warm or wash yourself. I hope one day you get everything you wish for, especially since you delight so in the very real suffering of others. Nice of you to gloat from the comfort and safety of your privileged, unscathed, shallow little existence.

      • Sammi

        If I may speak for us all,
        See, the problem is, Catholics are supposed to embrace suffering. So yes, we might come off as pretty heartless sometimes, because, thirough the eyes of Faith, suffering is a gift. Its an unwelcome one, of course, and every Catholic himself doesn’t welcome it as much as he knows he should. But forgive us for having a totally different mindset when we hear about suffering: its not that we’re pyschopaths incapable of human feelings, or that we love watching suffering (ask any Catholic: we cry and wince at all the things other people cry and wince at. the Passion of The Christ was killer to watch). Its just that we see the possibility of redemption in the suffering, and a part of our soul rejoices for that reason only. Its just refreshing to see the anticipation and the out-of-the-ordinary concern of people who usually are wrapped up within themselves (ourselves included) Because we are NOT perfect, we would not welcome the suffering that others have to endure because of disasters. But you know what? There are countless saints who reached such a spiritual level that God gave them the horrible, wonderful power to willingly take on the suffering of others. St. Teresa of Avila took on the deathbed pains of one of her nuns and suffered them herself. I think we very deeply wish we could be strong enough to do that.

        So its not a case of sadism and glee in others sufferings (as the very evil and the devils are capable of), its a case of knowing that Christ made suffering (which in itself is evil) laden with the possibility of good. That is what the secular world cannot and will not understand, until they have let the grace of God touch them and His truth set them free.

        And please dont be offended when Catholics/Christians/Theists say they will pray for you. Since you are an anonymous stranger, it is the only thing they can do for you. An in their eyes…well, our eyes…..well, through the lens of truth, actually….it is the best thing we can do.

        Apologies if I seem smug and selfish. Its just how things come across in text sometimes.

        • Leanne

          Oh, shut the fuck up. You ARE selfish.

          BlahblahblahCatholicsblahblahSufferingblahblah

          Problem is, you have raised suffering (especially when it’s someone ELSE’S suffering) to a good unto itself. You worship suffering. Idolize it.

          You’re not here to suffer or to glorify suffering or to be glib and smug and cavalier about OTHER PEOPLE’S suffering. You’re here to get the FUCK over yourself and alleviate other people’s suffering.

          Sorry if I can’t get all giggly and ecstatic over other people’s pain.

          Good news is I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that you will get your comeuppance in spades. Maybe then I’ll be the one laughing.

          So spare us all the bullshit that you’ve learned to parrot back to your teachers until you actually know what real suffering is, ‘k, little girl?

          • TechMage89

            I understand why you’re angry, but a little bit of civility goes a long
            way. I’m not sure why you’re bothering to comment if you can’t bring
            yourself to engage people on their actual points.

            I’m still not
            sure if you understand Marc’s point, to wit: when faced with an
            awe-inspiring disruption of our lives like a hurricane, and reminded,
            yes, sometimes with suffering, of our own mortality, we can see things
            more clearly for a while and become more fully ourselves.

            No,
            that doesn’t diminish the suffering, but we believe (or ought to
            believe) that suffering has some redemptive power (read Flannery
            O’Connor’s stories for an idea of how we can be saved by, yes, even
            horrible things). May I remind you that the sign of our faith is a
            *cross* — a horrific instrument of torture. In the ancient world,
            people were horrified by this, as you are clearly horrified by Marc’s
            comments on the hurricane.

            True, it’s easy to minimize the
            sufferings of others, and perhaps Marc, separated from them, has been a
            bit too glib in setting them aside. That said, he *still* has a point
            here about how disruption of our ordered lives, and yes, even suffering,
            can make us see the truth more clearly.

          • Leanne

            He has NO point other than to fucking make a big selfish show of his pathetic, mediocre bullshit that is apparently what passes for a functioning brain at the University of Fucking Terminally Retarded.

            None. And fuck your faith. If this is what passes for “faith” and “Catholicism”, fuck it all. This is ridiculous. You’re not even remotely acquainted with God, not one single one of you.

          • TechMage89

            Uhm… What’s your point, exactly? Or are you just blowing off steam?

            I’m
            not sure where you think I, or anyone else who has tried to engage you
            in discussion, has gone wrong, and you’re not helping to make that clear at all by your responses.

            If you have a criticism, please make it so I can understand. “Fuck you” while perhaps satisfying to say, doesn’t exactly help me understand your objections.

          • Sammi

            Excuse me, but you are? Is cussing people out and calling them total “Fucking Terminally Retarded” idiots a tenet of your faith?

            A little respect goes a long way. So far no one has said “Fuck you and your sick mother! You don’t know anything about real suffering!” have they?
            People on here are being respectful of the fact that you have loved ones who have been affected by this disaster, and that you do have a legitimate concern.

            Have a little respect, too.

          • Leanne

            Yeah. A little respect goes a long way. And this freaking faggot, Marc Barnes, with his lily-white, delicate girly hands, shows no respect for anyone every time he writes up one of these retarded piles of horse shit.

            No, when Charles tells me he’s happy every time a disaster hits NYC, and you all say NOTHING, you show me exactly who and what you are, you rotten, stinking hypocrite.

            So fuck YOU and fuck your whole family.

          • Angelina Steiner

            Leanne, the old cuss everyone out BITCH, again, time to take your medication!!!

          • Sammi

            Well, if you won’t try to be sympathetic to others viewpoints and understand where they’re coming from, why would you expect them to understand yours?
            A few preliminary questions:
            Is your view on suffering the absolute truth?

            Do you believe in absolute truth?

            Do you really care so much about the suffering people or do you just want to feel better than everyone else?

            The first comment you made was still civil and people were willing to mutually exchange opinions with you, but

            “Oh, shut the fuck up. You ARE selfish. BlahblahblahCatholicsblahblahSufferingblahblah”

            is not exactly having a discussion. And if you can’t have a civil discussion, then maybe its time to take a break from the com box, cool off, and come back when you’re willing to be logical.

            By the way, having strong religious convictions does not make one a little girl.

          • Leanne

            No, but being completely self-absorbed does make you an immature little twat. I don’t have “discussions” with people who are happy and elated over my family’s suffering.

          • Sammi

            Right ecause we all said exactly that.
            “LEANNE GET OFF OF HERE WE HATE YOU AND LOVE THE FACT THAT YOUR FAMILY IS SUFFERING. EFF YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.”
            Is that what you want us to say? So you can actually validate your hateful words?

            Well, no one is going to say that. Sorry to disappoint you.

            (In reality the only thing anyone has expressed towards your family is sympathy and concern, while you have told me to f*** mine. hm.)

          • Angelina Steiner

            ARE YOU STUPID, NOBODY IS “ELATED” over your family’s suffering. ARE YOU DENSE? You cuss at me and at others, what is wrong with you? TIME for serious medications!

          • Angelina Steiner

            Look, you need to stop posting if it’s getting you angry. People cope with destruction by going to God, unlike you, you would prefer cussing everyone out. Your are a pure materialist! You are attached to the creatures and things more than God. Yes, everyone freakin suffers. Yes, everyone freakin dies, but as Christians we have hope of eternal life. This one thing reveals who we are. Are we pagans or are we Christians? If you are a Christian, then you need to shut up and pray and go assist people, this will calm your nerve down. Get off the internet if it is causing you distress. No one enjoys seeing people suffer, unless they are evil. You presume too much.

          • Leanne

            How am I a materialist for being worried about my family? Fuck you, you fucking cunt,. You fucking whore. Fuck you,. Angelina Steiner, fucking cuntwhore of the century, telling me I’m a materialist for being worried about my family. Guess I should be like you and only care about MEMEME 24/7, you fucking piece of shit. You need to shut YOUR fucking mouth, you filthy dirty whore.

          • Angelina Steiner

            You sound like a bitch, all you know is cuss words. Calling me a whore, when you don’t even know me. Leanne, you told another person to get “laid.” YOU SOUND LIKE A WHORE yourself by telling others to get “laid.” Why are you here? You are weird and and a stupid materialist. You need to find help, call 911 and get help!

          • Angelina Steiner

            Leanne, your mouth is the “filthy and dirty” one. WOW, you are a weird little thing, you just can’t cope with life. So you had to insult other people faith. You are a sick little bitch! I fell sorry for your family with a mouth like yours. Are you verbally abusive to them?

  • pagansister

    The folks who have lost everything are not amused. People died. How can the possibility of a coming disaster be something to be happy about?

    • Scot

      It’s not something we should be happy about, but people still are amused by it. That’s the point. It’s highlighting something gone wrong deep down in all of us.

  • Chuck

    My favorite part is when he used a fake image of hurricane sandy, haha: http://theweek.com/article/index/235578/10-fake-photos-of-hurricane-sandy

  • MrMike

    As (understandably) angry as Leanne’s comments are, I have to sympathize with her. I am usually a supporter, Marc, but you really dropped the ball this time, and that goes also for the posters who agree that this event represents some sort of detached “catharsis” or moment of “naked truth.” This is the kind of thinking that can only be advanced by someone who hasn’t actually experienced something like this (in my case, Hurricane Agnes, 1972).
    If there is holiness and goodness to be found at a time like this – because things happen for a reason in God’s world – it is to be found in the opportunity seized by so many to help others, whether as first responders, or by working long hours to aid those who are suffering, or by volunteering to cook meals for those who have been turned out of their homes, or by donating money, clothes, food, blood transfusions, or by the many small and simple acts of kindness and generosity that people show during a natural disaster.

    You’re half-right, Marc: a natural disaster does indeed show people as they really are. It’s a shame you and some others here don’t see the irony in this truth.
    To Leanne: Know that there are many of us out there in the USA who are with you and everyone else affected, who are doing what we can and are praying for you.

    • Scot

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. I actually would have used more sensitive language if I could rewrite what I did with Leanne, and I apologize for any harm caused.

      But I would only like to get back to what the article actually talks about – that’s what this comment section is for. Maybe the hurricane isn’t the best vehicle to communicate the truth Marc was trying to get at. Granted. Fine. But it does go to show that people like Marc and myself who did originally have an initial feeling of exhilaration when hearing that a hurricane would be coming recognize the terribleness of that thought! It’s not a good thought at all, but people still think it! Therefore, any anger anyone has towards me for thinking that is well-placed! I’m not saying don’t be angry – be angry, because we know that no one should be thinking these things, but many people are thinking it (even if they won’t admit it). It’s a human tendency, a product of the Fall. It’s Original Sin that causes us to take pleasure in ourselves even at the expense of the pain of others. We’re all infected by this. Hurricane or not, there are instances in life that make us feel small and we realize this. I think this is a valid theological and anthropological point of discussion for this forum. I hope no one simply dismisses it, although all is open to legitimate critique.

    • Scott

      “This is the kind of thinking that can only be advanced by someone who hasn’t actually experienced something like this…” I beg to differ MrMike. I was in Japan in March of 2011 when the 9.0 earthquake hit and the tsunami came rolling in afterward. I was having a blast while it was happening. My house was swaying all over the place and I was trying to calm my dogs down while they tried to climb on top of me and I was hearing things fall upstairs, but it was FUN! Sure I thought of the fact that there could be valuable things breaking and there was a very real possibility that some of my friends who lived closer to the beach could lose their house, but in the moment I reveled in the new and exciting, reacted to each aftershock with a rush of adrenaline. Please do not skip over where Marc says that those affected by this storm are in his prayers. Marc simply speaks of the build up and the in-the-moment thinking that doesn’t get past the giddiness to what eventually settles over everyone including myself after all the damage had been assessed: there is much work to be done to rebuild, to help, and to remember those who lost their lives.

      All I’m asking is that you take Marc’s words as a reference to the fact that in the face of such an awesome power, where none of our earthly accomplishments matter, that is where we truly find our inner self.

      • MrMike

        Perhaps I should have clarified. I was speaking of people who are capable of understanding that catastrophes that result in the death and suffering of others are bad things and not “fun” things. Considering the detachment from genuine human feeling being displayed here, maybe Marc was right about the deadening effect of our culture. Maybe this is what Revelation means by the prediction that “men will seek death and not find it.”

        This is what the emphasis on “self-esteem” in our society has come to: people whose self-absorption is such that they can be more offended by the language Leanne (a woman clearly in pain, and with plenty of reason, God be with her) is using – “Hey! She called me a NAME!” – than by the sort of cool detachment from humanity and deadening of spirit that can result in thinking of a natural disaster as being “fun.”

        I’m quite capable of understanding the ephemerality of human accomplishments in the face of the power of nature (let alone that of God Himself). But I believe that what we are called to do at such a time is not to revel in how much “fun” we are having seeing those accomplishments destroyed. What we are called upon to do is recognize that each of us is a frail human being, whose earthly statuses count for nothing, but at the same time a soul created in the image of God, valuable beyond measure – and that it is our duty to find ways to love one another. A natural disaster gives us the opportunity to show that love. That is where the “naked truth” of such an event lies; that is the “inner self” that needs to be expressed.

  • Charles Cosimano

    And those of us on high ground in the midwest were given a lot of reasons for laughing at the storm for disasters that hit New York are always a cause for joy.

    • Leanne

      Fuck you, asshole.,Thank you, however, for being honest about the fact that your Catholicism is all about you getting to laugh at the suffering and death of millions of people because you’re too much of a fucking pussy to deal with a real city. Please stay in flyoverland. And remind me to have a good laugh next tornado season. Hope you and your family fucking die in one, asshole.

      • Angelina Steiner

        Leanne, you are a base human. Your words truly reveals who you are!

  • Lucy

    Like an earlier commenter, I’m also from New Orleans and went through Hurricane Katrina. Now I live in New York, so I just went through Sandy, although I wasn’t in an area that got affected. I was looking forward to the storm before it struck, and I did mostly pick the bs, although my reactions would have been very different if the hurricane in my mind had been a Cat. 5–it’s substantially more dangerous than, say, a Cat. 1 or 2 (and you will never get worse than that headed for the Northeast).

    I find your suggestion as to why we enjoy hurricanes interesting, and I’m not sure I disagree with it entirely, but I don’t really think that’s it in the main, at least not for most people. When I was a child, I always loved hurricane weather, and it wasn’t because I got off school, and it certainly wasn’t because it freed me to be simply myself–I was, as you yourself said, too young at the time to be anything else.

    I think we love hurricanes–and similar other natural disasters–because they are beautiful. Think of the volcano erupting in spouts of red-gold magma–it’s magnificent. It has a power and a ferocity that is glorious, for all its incredible danger, perhaps to some degree because of that danger. We can glory in the beauty of watching a volcano erupt on tv pretty easily, but the only real way to glory in a hurricane is to be in it–to feel the wind grab your hair and the rain pound into your skin. (Also, a volcano is significantly more dangerous to be really near, so it’s generally preferable to watch from afar.)

    None of this is of course to mitigate the concern we have for the lives lost or property damaged by hurricanes like Sandy. If we could choose, we would all certainly chose not to have hurricanes rather than to enjoy their beauty at the expense of disaster. But that something so beautiful should cause so much devastation is but to say that this a fallen world.

  • Anne Rezac

    The hurricane made me angry. It is becoming more obvious through weather patterns that our habits as humanity are proving to take the toll on the environment.
    Wake up. If we don’t radically change our lifestyles, we are going to see ramifications and unfortunately suffering.

    • Anne Rezac

      And by radically changing I mean changing fossil-fuel driven everything.

    • TechMage89

      If the top scientists in the field can’t accurately pin down the causes of something like this, I’m interested to know why you think you can.

  • abutcherswife

    “Happiness is not found in our environment.” Or, as John Milton put it: “A paradise within happier far.” Thanks for putting words to this feeling, lest I just feel like a sado-masichistic maniac :)

  • Sam

    It is quite obvious that Mr. Barnes is an evil mastermind who has severed his bonds with human empathy in order to capitalize off of the suffering of others. No evidence points to the other motive for having written a blog post such as this- that he is a little kid, who like many little kids, still delights in things huge and bigger, and outside of himself, and is writing about this tendency, rather than attempting to trivialize the suffering going on. No evidence at all.

    • Leanne

      He’s a “little kid”…? He’s retarded, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, but he’s no “little kid”, unless “little kids” younger than he are risking their lives overseas in wars fighting to defend his freedom to be a selfish twat.

      He’s a legal adult. He chose to be “happy” that Hurricane Sandy struck. Nice. Good work, Mom & Dad — nice job you did there. Really nice. I am happy that my kids didn’t turn out to be selfish, stupid, preening prats like your kid.

      • Tally Marx

        Ever heard of a hurricane party? There are those who are in the storm, facing the damages themselves, who are excited about it. They had their hurricane parties during Katrina, and the second it was over, that died off and they pulled out their boats and began cleaning up: their property and others’. Compassion, charity, and excitement over a storm are not mutually exclusive.

  • Caitlin

    Please tell me how my entire state being decimated is supposed to make me happy. My boyfriend being hit by a car that spun out during the storm? So happy. My town being underwater? Ecstatic. Save your existential crises for something a bit more trivial, thanks.

    • Sam

      Is your boyfriend okay?

      • Caitlin

        Pretty battered but nothing broken. He was really lucky not to have serious injuries.

  • Ells

    I know people in New York and Jersey who were excited but also fearful about the upcoming storm. Humans are complex creatures and are capable of feeling what Marc described AND vast concern for their neighbors (and themselves, since, well, they were there). This isn’t just the opinion or experience of outsiders comfortably looking at an event from afar…

  • Cam

    Great point Marc!

  • Luka Alexandrovich Nevskyev

    I was not excited, because I didn’t get to be in it. There is an exhilaration, yes, and to experience that exhilaration is good, yes, but it is a pleasure reserved for those who also experience the real hurricane. The pleasure and the suffering are inextricably linked, and either one becomes a perversity without the other.

  • Nes

    I’m new here. I honestly can not tell if Leanne is trolling or not. Nobody here said they didn’t care about people who were suffering, nobody here is advocating an anti-empathetic worldview. She’s created this blatantly ridiculous caricature of Marc and others here, and even her own comments are so irrational and “rage filled” that she comes off like an underdeveloped character in bad pulp-fiction novel.

    Obviously suffering is a blunt, terrible reality. It is emotionally wrecking. But nobody here is saying that suffering is a “great thing to be happy about.” The point of this post is clear: There is something exciting about the egalitarian nature of a storm: It reveals we are all on the same level, none of us more powerful than the other under the great power of nature itself.

    Here’s something nobody seems to have considered: One can be both excited and terrified at the same time. I, for example, was praying constantly for those affected by Sandy, but there was also something in my spirit that was excited for the opportunity to build again, to come together in the face of destruction, to love a neighbor not noticed or loved before.

    The storm reminds us of a great human paradox, that we are both powerless and powerful at the same time: Powerless to escape destruction, but empowered to to transform disaster into beauty and love.

    Leanne’s comments do just the opposite. She takes a disaster and harbors bitterness for those who see hope in the midst of it and those who have the child-like excitement in the face of something terrible and awesome. But I suspect that Leanne doesn’t need another lecture, she needs love.

    So here’s to Leanne: may someone hold you close in the midst of suffering, and may you find a shoulder to cry on while the wreckage around you is re-built. May your heart and hopes likewise be re-built in this tragedy that allows for both bitter and sweet.

    • Scot

      Thanks for these powerful words!

  • Sammi

    Just curious…has anyone actually written Marc a death threat in iambic pentameter?

  • Meg

    To answer your quiz.

    1.
    C) Incredulous, Yeah, sure, there’s a hurricane this late in the season that’s going to have enough steam to make it this far North. Riiiiiight.
    2.
    C) Oh Crap, It’s Real? Isn’t God getting a little ahead of schedule? The world’s not supposed to end until December! (Gallows Humor on my part. I know we can’t know when the world’s going to end.)
    3.
    C) Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap. (House was in the path, although not directly.)
    4.
    I will concede that “Frankenstorm” is an awesome name. It didn’t make the storm awesome though.
    5.
    N/A we got more than a little rain.
    6.
    C) Initially annoyed, since I thought the power loss was another fake out since we had lost power for about five minutes at a time twice earlier in the day. After that, worry, since my HW wasn’t finished. After that, Gallows Humor kicked in again since I realized this was every horror movie setting cliche it is possible to have and still be set in America. (Stormy weather, Dark, Full Moon, Close to Halloween, Small Town {small-ish anyway} and no power, but land line still working so killer could taunt us) and fantasized about kicking monster/slasher but to take my mind of things. After that, Rosary Time.

    I usually love your stuff, and I agree with your basic point, but I feel this was in poor taste. People died and lost their homes. Natural Disasters bring out the best and worst in people, I am sorry to see that this one appears to have brought out the worst in you.

  • Mike

  • HildegardvonBringenit

    Let’s pray for all the victims, especially those who continue to suffer from the pain and damage.

    In response to some of the harsher criticisms, there is always death, dying, and suffering all around us, even when our own lives go swimmingly, even when there ain’t a cloud in the sky. Is there a better time than now to discuss how warped the sensibilities of the postmodern mind have become?

    For the vast majority of humanity, the situation Sandy left in its wake is daily life.

    Marc is pointing out something disturbed about the unusual position humans like most modern educated Americans find themselves in by being, well, not normally struggling for daily survival.

    That, perhaps, comfortable existence ain’t; that somehow it seems to miss something more important. That disasters like this somehow reconnect us with the rest of humanity in that fight against real darkness, by being reminded that real pain and real darkness exist, even beneath the thickest shield of all the perks of our cozy lives.

    This post may strike some as insensitive, because that’s exactly what we have done through the privilege of our elite consumerist lifestyle: desensitized ourselves to the nature of the world to the point of rejoicing at finding ourselves just human.

    One of the many deep beauties of Catholic Christianity is that we are forced to confront these distressing parts of our humanity–our smallness, pain, vulnerability, lack of control, and eventual death–to recognize them as they truly are at their darkest, and to see that there still shines a light the darkness cannot overcome.

    http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/34831028906/seen-in-breezy-point-queens

  • Loud

    Ah, I confess I was happy that the media shut up. I also confess I was delighting in the rain and beautifully cold air, since i live juuuuust far enough west of the main storm to not have to worry. A week before the storm, though, before anyone was talking or worrying about it, A giant gust of wind blew a giant metal umbrella and slamed it into my bedroom window. Despite the fact I was sitting next to my window and could have been harmed by glass, my room was freezing cold for a week till it was boarded up, and that my own brother was nearly skewered as it came down to earth, I was elated. On the otherhand, it also made it clear just how dangerous wind is and made me particularly anxious for the safty of relitives living closer to ‘ground zero’.

  • Maggie

    Thanks for shedding some positive light on my view of hurricanes. I answered “a” to most of the quiz questions, but then through your article, I started realizing that it’s ok for me to answer “b.” It doesn’t make me insensitive, just honest. My outlook is broadening.


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