Nature`s Way


At times of crisis like the one Japan is facing at the moment, faith in the goodness of a supernatural order is what gets shaken. Such natural disasters keep recurring but the one Japan is facing now must rank as one of the worst, if not the very worst. The inevitable question on the lips of everybody upon witnessing such tragedies would be, why must such disasters which kill and punish so many and so indiscriminately happen. It is also a question that would plunge anybody into deep spiritual trepidation and even despair. The past decade has been particularly cruel. Devastating earthquakes have been almost routine, the last one before the Japan disaster being the one in Haiti which practically razed the entire country to the ground.
It is true that when the picture of the devastation has been totally sized up, in terms of direct casualties, Japan is likely to have suffered much less deaths than many of the other killer quakes that hit poorer nations in the past few years. This is on account of Japan’s legendary preparedness for such natural calamities. This island nation is deeply conscious of its vulnerability, and as Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, one of the world’s top brands of practically anything electronic had said in his biography, this innate insecurity is what gives the nation and its people the resilience, determination and discipline, for deep in their consciousness, they as a collective know they have to acquire these traits in order to beat the odds and survive as a people. And they have not just survived but also been on the top of the world.
This preparedness could have, with much more ease, handled the earthquake if it came alone. But this was not to be. After the massive earthquake last Friday, came close on its heels a giant tsunami that swept buildings, cars, trucks, aeroplanes and literally everything else of any size that laid in its way. But even the tsunami is not all. Now the country faces the prospect of a nuclear disaster, unparalleled even by the two atomic bombs it took in 1945 towards the end of the WW-II which caved its national psychology to be finally coerced into surrendering. We hope the nuclear reactors which are now threatening to melt down and spill its radioactive fissile materials as well as radioactive wastes are brought under control before they annihilate whatever is left of the resilient morale of the Japanese people, besides causing more deaths and physical destructions.
But where was God when these tragedies of such magnitude happened? Why has he not come forward to protect the innocent? If he is the embodiment of all goodness, why did he not prevent human miseries of such scale? Perhaps it is not God, but our understanding of God which is at fault. The occidental religious philosophy which delineates good and evil absolutely is perhaps where the problem is arising. From this outlook, God is only good, and evil is external to him. But this gives rise to another profound ontological problem. If God is only good, and is responsible for only the good things that happen, who created evil? If God also made evil, the question is why? If he did not, then God is no longer omnipotent, for there is a parallel creative principle at work which caused in evil. This approach hence does not have a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil. The one that has an answer to this problem is perhaps in the Eastern religions where God is allowed a good degree of moral ambivalence. From this vantage, God becomes the sum total of everything, good and evil included. Therefore in Hinduism for instance, God is both the creator and destroyer. It does not explain everything, but maybe it is this God which manifested itself in the destruction that Japan is facing at this moment. This God, and his ways are value neutral, at least not determined by human values. His sublime beauty and magnificence is in the awesome power evident in the destruction that nature can visit anybody, big and small, rich and poor. This approach would leave no room to blame anybody for what is unfolding in Japan and what so many other places, including Haiti, suffered in the past. All that happened is just nature’s way. There is no question of it being good or bad.


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