24 April, 2004

A near miss

It's funny how we try to find meaning in everything.

This morning as I stepped outside the house I narrowly avoided the aerial bombardment of a squadron of pigeons. The payload landed directly in front of me and made a loud "SPLAT!", like someone had spilled a bucketful of raw eggs across the steps. There must have been at least eight of the little shitters involved in the attack, but when I looked up I could only see one, perched on the edge of the roof with his ass hanging out cheekily. After my heart had stopped racing, I went back upstairs to make sure that none of it was in my hair or on my clothes (that's happened before - nothing is more embarassing than being told you have bird shit in your hair) before heading out again, making sure to dart out quickly from the front door, in case they were planning a second barrage.

I went through the full range of emotional response: genocidal rage, paranoia ("There's a pigeon on every wire!"), humiliation, fear. But in the end I was just left with a sort of confusion. I couldn't help but try and draw meaning from my narrow escape - after all, only one second's difference would have left me, err, soiled. And when you think about it, there's no real qualitative difference between the disaster that I was saved from and escaping death by falling piano, chunk of masonry or tree downed in a thunderstorm. And it's all too common to hear people thank Jehovah for saving them from that sort of cruel fate - why not me? Sure, my disaster is about fifty times sillier than death by falling masonry, but so what? Either you believe that there's some divine spirit watching over you, deciding magnanimously that today, It is going to save your ass from the blender; or you believe that it's all random shit, and Jehovah doesn't give a fuck if you get bird ca-ca all over you, or you die, or what.

I think it's pretty evident that there isn't anything to it - I don't think Jehovah spread his arms over me this morning and shielded me from a fate worse than death. But I did feel compelled to try and explain it that way. We're odd creatures - we can't just take adversity as it comes and accept it as haphazard and undirected. We want to see reason and purpose in everything - even bird defecation. But I think the sooner we give up on the idea of a just universe and a rational god watching over it, the better. Not because we'll be happier, that way. Just less disappointed when God doesn't pull through.

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