Those who remember the glory days of BBS software – Bulletin Board Systems — might recall “Land of Devastation“, an incredible “door game” by Dr. Scott M. Baker. As a “sysop” (System Operator) of my own board, I featured the game and played it every day. Although set in post-apocalyptic times, “Land of Devastation” was, for me, a game filled with hope. No matter what ravages befall our earth, we will survive. Life will go on.
Devastation, of course, is not a game. The very word is ugly and frightening, and I will admit it was not a pleasant topic for my meditation with Ma’at today. I prefer to think of beautiful lands, clear skies, a world of love and peace. Such thoughts, unfortunately, are not always realistic.
The first idea impressed upon me by the goddess was how grateful I should be that I have never experienced any large-scale disasters or devastation first-hand. Most of us have a relatively good life compared to those in many other countries. Poverty, homelessness, and crime are certainly part of our American experience, yet the worst ravages of hunger, malnutrition, violence, war, and corruption seem somewhat removed from our shores. We are a prosperous nation. Opportunities abound. Help can be found when needed through many agencies such as the Red Cross or United Way.
My thoughts and impressions, however, did not stop with this simple realization of how easy I have it in my life. I was rather embarrassed to think back to times when I considered myself to be devastated by some rather trivial matter, such as the break-up of a relationship or an unsuccessful job interview. Such incidents are emotional, of course, but certainly not devastating.
As I pondered the many, many tragedies that happen throughout our world — those worthy to be called devastating — the oft-asked question as to why God would allow such things quickly came to mind. Over the years, I’ve heard many answers to that question.
Some assert that the true ruler of our world is Satan, and that he is responsible for all the evil and suffering. Others turn to the concept of free agency, pointing out that God gave man the right to choose between good and evil. Devastation may be seen as an extension of that concept, the result of poor choices made by mankind.
According to certain religious practices, our world has been cursed by God because Adam and Eve rebelled against His word in the Garden of Eden.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
- Genesis 3:17-19
Evangelist Billy Graham freely admitted that he didn’t have all the answers to the question, and some people believe we’re not even supposed to ask why God allows suffering. To do so is in some way seen to suggest that we lack faith.
Still others trot out the well-worn line about God “testing us” through trials, along with simple assurances that if it doesn’t kill us, it will make us stronger. Maybe so, but those thoughts fall far short of the mark in my mind.
In meditation, I turned my thoughts to the idea that there must be opposition in all things, that every beginning holds the seeds of its own ending, and that both light and dark must exist in order to create shape and form.
“It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.”
- 2nd Nephi 2:11
Devastation and disaster come in many forms. Natural disasters — typhoons, hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes — may simply be natural, indeed. Perhaps these are means by which our earth cleanses or rights itself. Mother Nature acts to preserve her own, although her means may sometimes be viewed as harsh. Unfortunately, as inhabitants of this earth, we may at times get in Mother Nature’s way.
But what of other disasters? What of forest fires carelessly set by man? What of government experiments in weather control? What of devastation resulting from technological “advances” that actually weaken nature or modern-day activities that wreak havoc upon our rivers and forests, our lakes and even the air we breathe?
In this context, maybe we are all living in a land of devastation. Maybe it’s become part of our everyday experience, so ever-present that we have grown numb to it. Maybe it’s time to stop asking questions about “Why?” and turn our attention instead to stopping the horrible devastation of our world. The real question should be “How can I help?”