Monday, May 12, 2008

The rest is silence

The tidal wave in Myanmar. The earthquake in China. Thousand and thousand lives lost. You can imagine the grief of one person, even of two, three. But who can conceive, who can visualize and feel the pain of millions...

The earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 caused Voltaire to write a poem questioning the existence of an allmighty, just and benevolent God:

«C’est l’effet des éternelles lois
Qui d’un Dieu libre et bon nécessitent le choix?»



Anonymous said...

The sad part is that nobody really talked much about it. The media didn't pay enough atention. About Burma anyway...And now China...

Sad, sad, sad...

Yannis H said...

Who can conceive the pain in a plague, the pain of Black Death? Such incidents bring us back in time; they give us a glimpse of the past.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we have so many problems of our own that we cannot take other people's...

Fantomas said...


It is quite interesting how we seem to turn to God, only when we hear of tragedies, of such gigantic proportions.

Why? And what about Yannis, Elena, Michael, Peter, and million others around the globe, non-famous and famous, that have to live with their own, personal, "little tragedies", every single day? What about them?

Noone cares. Noone cares. For usually, noone can really do something to comfort them - whereas with victims such as these of Myanmar and China, the whole world rushes to their rescue...

Aphrodite said...

How can you make sense of a "matrix"?

Of any "matrix" for that matter?

And its designer.

If there really is one...

Nature is strongest of us all. Pain in this context is just business as usual.

And in the grand scheme of things, we are slightly irrelevant... It's not just horrific that we can be so easily extinguished, but equally amazing that we are alive for one more day!

anula2 said...

This quote by Voltaire has something naive about it.
one starts questioning such fatherly allmighty ''white bearded'' existence even with disasters in the personal microcosmic level, is my opinion

doodler said...

Naive or not, in macro- or microcosm, this is THE question. Not if there is a God of scientists, an abstract cosmic algorithm, a starting nudge for the Big Bang - but if there is a God who loves and cares - the God of religions.

Aphrodite said...

"...but if there is a God who loves and cares - the God of religions".

And what's it to you, if I may ask?

If there is one, as the religions want it, your soul will be taken care of, bathed in oceans of love and you -along with all of us- will find yourself in an eternal luau in Heaven.

If there is none, tough: dust to dust, ashes to ashes, hasta la vista and you won't even know it.

So then, is there another question behind this one?

"Are you questing or are you being pursued?"

(To be convinsed otherwise so that your existential angst stops consuming you?)

In any case, why would anyone need to know?

Churchwarden said...

I believe it's a famous writer from Israel that I recently heard talking about the force of forcing people to change.

Feasible or not, a human trying to change a human is one thing, whereas a human trying to comprehend God (which is an effort of changing God, in an undisputable, absolute way) is another. A ridiculous one.

God remains the same and out of reach.

doodler said...

@Goddess of love...

If there is one I will go to hell - so my only hope is total extinction (which seems guaranteed, given that the Self and the brain are one).


"out or reach" is all I need...

irlandos said...

@ doodler
"If there is one I will go to hell"

All of us atheists … will go to hell if God exists. Then again think what an interesting place hell will be, full of true scientists and philosophers.

Bertrand Russell, was once asked what he would say if, after his death, found himself confronted by God, demanding to know why Russell had not believed in Him (or Her). Bertrand Russell’s reply was: "Not enough evidence God, not enough evidence". So, if God did exist, as the Creator of the universe, He (or She) should be a scientist. And as a scientist, He (or She) should accept Russell’s argument.

For a much more humorous portrayal of hell, visit this


candide said...

Was this the best-of-all-possible earthquakes?

Well, since there is no God (or he/she exists and does not care, or he/she exists and punishes us, choose your version), the difficult task of surviving and recovering falls upon... us, humans.

Lets hope humans will not react as we have been in the past:

"After the earthquake, which had destroyed three-fourths of the city of Lisbon, the sages of that country could think of no means more effectual to preserve the kingdom from utter ruin than to entertain the people with an auto-da-fe, it having been decided by the University of Coimbra, that the burning of a few people alive by a slow fire, and with great ceremony, is an infallible preventive of earthquakes."

From Candide, Chapter 6. (from Wikipedia's English translation)

Aphrodite said...

@atheist doodler,

(sounds far funkier than "My Bloody Valentine"!)

"If there is one I will go to hell"

And what if the Designer were also a bad-tasted prankster, and sent you right into a blissful Heaven? How would you feel as a philosopher with the post-knowledge, but not the ability to return and spread the word any more?

Being in Heaven and still feeling like Hell I presume...

But anyways, Hell is too small for Adolf, Stalin and the rest, for you to join them! Not believing is surely a lesser crime than taking lives, right?


"- so my only hope is total extinction (which seems guaranteed, given that the Self and the brain are one)."

The Self and the Brain are one, as we see it. But is the Self only what we perceive as "Me"? What about all the "Me" held by the people in our lives? Does this get instantly extinct too?

Undertakers of the world unite! The man is stealing your business! No funerals needed no more!




Great video!

PS- and it's "convinCed", not "convinsed" as I wrote earlier, sorry, wee hours typos...

Yannis H said...

I came to think that when something horrible and completely out of the ordinary happens to a person, the pain is altered by the feeling of injustice, the sense of uniqueness. “Why me?” each person would cry in such an occasion.

In a huge tragedy, on the other hand, that strikes on thousands of people, the feeling of injustice is widespread and this of uniqueness is gone; there is no “why me?”. Just plain “why?” A common cry, a shared pain. Moreover, the stages of recovery are not private, having the rest of the world functioning in a normal manner. Rater, all people around will be tuned to the same steps.

A general tragedy is difficult to comprehend for an outsider - I reckon, however, that it can be easier to carry the burden on a personal level. The amount of change is immense – making matters less personal. We (think we) understand a personal and isolated tragedy – but the individual’s pain is likely to be deeper there.

All these may seem like equations of pain – though they provide an alternative to the original post.

asproclear said...

@yannis h

Sometimes, if a disaster doesnt happen to more than one, 'it never happened', for the social body.