I had to laugh at this morning's front page headline of the Chicago Tribune, something like "Volcano costs $2 billion," which was accompanied by an image like the one posted here (HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP/Getty Image). Talk about navel-gazing: Here we are witnessing a wonder of the natural world incredibly captured in a photograph, and all we can think about is how much it's going to cost the economy. I don't mean to make light of the difficulty the 150,000 Britons have had getting home, but their suffering is more a result of human greed than the volcano.
If we suspended for a moment our human propensity to make volcanic eruptions all about us, we might be struck with the wonder, beauty, and power of the Earth, and the marvelous balance of energy and life of which this explosion is a part. Plus, we're lucky this time that this release of energy hasn't really caused great loss of life, as did the terrible earthquake in Haiti, where human suffering is being magnified now by the coming rainy season.
The Jewish rabbi Abraham Heschel counseled a stance of "radical amazement" toward the wonder of the created world, pointing as it does to the unpredictably awesome creative power of God alive in our still-developing universe. Sometimes the unpredictable part causes great suffering, as in Haiti, but this time we are free to enjoy the spectacle--while not forgetting those affected by it. And to echo Heschel, I think we have to admit, it's pretty amazing.