Religions are prone to all sorts of ridiculous errors, but one of the worst is believing that reality can be tamed. Meaning, eliminating uncertainty, chance, randomness, unpredictability.
It's a psychological truism that we humans are uncomfortable with uncertainty. So we make up stories to fill the gap between what is known and what we have questions about where answers are lacking.
How did existence come to be? Nobody knows. Science is content with leaving this question as a mystery. Religions, though, make up a tale about how God created the cosmos -- ignoring the obvious problem of how God came to be.
(If it is assumed that God always has existed, then it also can be assumed that the cosmos always has existed.)
Here in Oregon, and also in our neighboring states of Washington and California, massive wildfires are burning. Today I saw a tweet by a reporter that said, "Since 1900, Oregon has never had more than 2 mega fires (100K acres or more) in a single year, said Jim Gersbach from @ORDeptForestry. Now depending on how you count them we have 3 or 4 all burning at once."
Earlier in the summer it seemed that Oregon would have a mild wildfire season. There were some fires, but they weren't creating big problems.
Then an unexpected combination of circumstances combined to create a Perfect Storm for wildfires.
Oregon has been in a long-standing drought. Very little rain has fallen for many months. And a rare September snow storm in the Rockies was followed by high pressure in that region that created strong east winds in the Pacific Northwest.
The National Weather Service realized the danger. They designated much of Oregon as being at high risk for wildfires. That turned out to be an accurate prediction. Yesterday I took this photo at 9 am while standing in our almost pitch black driveway.
Smoke from what now is called the Santiam Fire was so thick, blown by the east winds in the direction of Salem, where I live, that the sun was completely obscured. All that could be seen in the sky was an eerie red glow. Later in the day it was still strangely dark, which made me think darkness at noon.
Thousands of people living in the Santiam Canyon east of Salem had to evacuate in the early morning hours on Tuesday. A small fire in the mountains that seemed to be posing little danger grew astoundingly rapidly, pushed by the strong east winds. This map shows the current size of the fire from satellite imagery.
(Yellow is satellite fire detections 24-48 hours ago. Orange is 12-24 hours. Red is 0-12 hours. So the red dots show where a fire has moved most recently. Note: on a slow Internet connection like what I have, the dots take a while to load.)
So far two people are known to have died in the Santiam Fire, a grandmother and her grandchild, who were in a car trying to escape the flames. Many homes and businesses have been destroyed. And this fire is just one of many ravaging Oregon.
Bad things happen.
This isn't news to anybody. It's the way the world is. If bad things could be predicted with certainty, we could stop them from happening. But usually we can't do that. Sure, meteorologists knew that the strong east winds could fan dangerous wildfires.
Yet whether this actually would come to pass wasn't known until the winds arrived. And yes, now Oregon is suffering through the worst wildfires in the state's history.
My Tai Chi instructor and his wife have had to evacuate their home. They live near the road that links Silverton and Molalla in the map I shared above. They got out safely, along with their dogs, horses, and goats. That's good news, though better news would be if their house ends up being untouched by fire.
I can hope for that. Yet I can't know that. Life is uncertain. That's for sure. Which is why I started to work on an evacuation checklist yesterday, just in case.