Are the gods angry? Naturalists would say this is a case of assigning the wrong cause to an unpleasant affect… something humans have done for most of our history. “I can’t figure out what’s causing this plague, so it must have been witches! Yeah, that’s it – let’s burn all the witches and the plague will go away.”
Even in a scientific era where we know most of what causes hurricanes, we struggle to truly understand something so massive and so powerful. We look for meaning anywhere we can – I’m no exception. So what does it mean?
First, I think this reminds us of our place in the world. We may be at the top of the food chain, but all our technology is nothing compared to a hurricane or a tornado… or a star. We’re semi-intelligent, mostly-conscious creatures, but we fade to insignificance beside the power of nature.
The evangelical minister Rick Warren (who’s not a bad guy, once you get past his theology – see this article) says “it’s not about you.” Even Pagans like to think the gods are obsessed with our affairs, but there’s a whole planet (and maybe countless others) full of other creatures whose lives are important too.
Deadly storms point out the fragility and the short span of an individual life. Tornados illustrate this even better than hurricanes, because they appear and disappear so suddenly and so unpredictably. This calls us to live fully every day, to make the most of the time we have, and to spend our few years and few hours on what’s really important.
Plus, if you’re truly wise and truly faithful, then shouldn’t you have the good sense to get the hell out of the way and not expect some guardian angel to pluck your foolish butt out of the storm surge?