Towards the end of the autumn a couple of years ago, I was standing alone on the promenade in the drizzling rain just watching the turbulent sea. It was high tide and I held firmly onto the railing, but even though a strong wind was blowing, I did not feel threatened. Clouds were travelling fast and low in the late afternoon gloom leaving a tapestry of colour behind them in the sky.
A concept entered my head so suddenly that it truly shocked me. If only we were to really accept how insignificant and vulnerable we are to many things in this world of ours, events would surely be different. My youthfulness well gone, that feeling of invincibility had also been lost to my past. The potential power in those waves was awesome. In the deep waters of an ocean, powerful enough to easily toss the largest man-made vessel about like a mere grain of sand from a desert in a storm. The sea demands respect by just being there and anyone foolish enough to defy that strength would pay dearly for their folly. Such power does not tolerate fools and I thought of the countless trillions of tons of water in constant motion around the globe and the unforgiving nature of that power. Any movement in the stable foundation upon which I stood might presage trouble and remove my sense of security in an instant. I may even be plunged directly into that utmost fury from which there would be no return, but oddly, I felt comforted by accepting my insignificance and recognising my vulnerability.
This was a relatively quiet sea, but was nonetheless a reminder of the forces that are in charge. About that there can be no argument. Absolutely no possibility of controlling the forces of nature which have been around for millions of years. Nature will always be in command and the beast could never be tamed.
The most feared man-made devices are puny by comparison and even a salvo of nuclear bombs would not make a dent compared to those forces around us and how strange that we bow to the power of these man-made devices, yet do not respect natural events. No man can act alone and be truly powerful as there must be those that perform their bidding. Influence constitutes power, but trivial power. Man's ego is imagined to be so big that it can control nations. One ego so massive that it would strive to control millions of smaller ones. Will power and self-control are weak and virtually absent. In a moment, the largest and most powerful armies on Earth would be swept away by these forces that possess absolutely no will or any control of their own, yet should be respected. Only sentient Mankind desires to cause destruction and desolation by will alone. From time to time we are reminded of Mother Nature and Her terrible power. Real power acting by itself. Supreme power. But this is of little consequence when considering ever-greater forces. The devastation caused by a tsunami pales into insignificance against ever more powerful natural events. A volcano that can plunge hundreds of thousands of square miles into a choking darkness and blot out a still greater power. We exist in the eye of a hurricane. A place that appears safe in stillness surrounded by a maelstrom of confusion. An asteroid travelling at colossal speed would devastate an entire planet if a collision happened. In an instant the energy released would be impossible to comprehend and a hundred trillion hurricanes working together could never equal that force. Such energy is impossible to appreciate. Our Sun with violence unmatched by anything imaginable would make a million nuclear bombs little more than a candle by comparison to such an inferno. The time it would take to realise the destruction of our Sun would be about 8 light minutes, the time for its brightness to travel the intervening 93,000,000 miles. Yet even this is nothing when compared with even much larger entities. A supernova. The span across some entities in the known universe numbers thousands of light years and our own local Milky Way galaxy numbers 100,000 of these. Unimaginable distance.
I find this very humbling, as my own ego understands its own vulnerability and its real significance in the order of things. Yet some would compare their own ego to that of forces like these. That is terrifying. The crass stupidity of Humankind to imagine it is a fair fight when up against such power. It's breathtaking arrogance. We can do nothing in the face of real natural power and when unleashed this power gives no warning. It wreaks its terrible fury upon the unsuspecting inhabitants of this world, yet it is neither vengeful nor wants anything for itself. There is no discrimination. Anyone or anything that lives will perish in its wake and this is all we can ever hope to comprehend in the vastness of space or anywhere else.
© Louis Brothnias v 1.0 (2005), Rev 2.3 (2010)
Originally entitled "Perspectives"