Both legend and history not to mention my personal genaeology make mention of a great fire in about 1894 which killed over 400 people and covered 200,000 acres of timber. It was so hot that some rail cars caught in the blaze had their wheels welded to the tracks. All the oxygen in the area was sucked up and many died of hypoxia. The cause was a series of fires set by loggers amidst a terrific drought, which coalesced into a wall of flame that lasted only 4 hours but was unmatched for intensity. There was waste timber scattered on every inch of ground, with no one bothering to clean it up. It was part of the landscape, or shall we say, manscape. (goatish)
My great great grandfather, a Mr. Martin Martinson, was a logger in the area, and was employed north of town during the week, to come back to his wife and 4 daughters in the town only on weekends. The fire hit while he was away, and the Hinkley Fire Museum has an eery portrait of a mother and 4 daughters being consumed by the flames. (see weather history video)
Mr Martinson, by my grandmother’s report, became, or maybe was, an embittered man prone to violence. He subsequently married my Grandmother’s mother, who ran away from her husband taking young Inga with her, my Grandmother on my mother’s side. My Grandmother would tell me about the time he attacked her with a chisel and show me the scar. Because her mother ran away, Inga was forced to go back and live with her father. The most memorable thing about this, per my grandmother (Martinson nee Balster) is that she was no longer allowed to go to the library, which she very much resented since Minneapolis/St. Paul where the ladies had fled had very good collections, and were not very prone to horrible fires (unlike rival Chicago) –or unrelenting chores.
Hence Inga ran away again, and somehow was finally allowed to stay with her mother. But knowing these stories I always had the sense that my Grandmother was scarred far deeper than the surface, indirectly of course as a result of this great fire. Her attachment to St. Paul in particular was very firm. Ironically when her husband died she went from one daughter’s house to another depending on the season of the year, and began chain smoking, which eventually led to her own demise. The fire next time?
The other irony of course is that my mother, myself, and my siblings, as well as my two aunts, would not have existed apart from that horrible fire. Some would be rancid enough to call this an act of God, even though it was really the result of man’s carelessness with nature. Mr. Martinson himself can be said to have been part of the problem, leaving waste timber everywhere so there was no chance for the fire to slow down or do anything but to gain power and heat. Probably the only thing that may have stopped the fire was the clear cutting around the railroad tracks, and a few locomotive engineers were able to save some hundreds of people by backing up into the inferno.
The point here may be that man is quick to blame God when disasters strike, but in a sense all disasters, and lack of peace, are due not to Nature but to Man, who is the “Disturbance in the Force/Forest.” We need not merely stop at wars and rumors of wars. Man puts a stick of his own devising into the cycle spokes of nature and natural law, and subverts it for his own ends. Short sighted to say the least. Light still does not bend around corners.
It is unlikely that, in this country at least, another fire of this particular type could occur. We actually learned from history in this case, but there were other fires that added fuel to this one, and of course today, in the era of controlled burns, we continue to see that the more we interfere with nature, the more we reap disastrous consequences that it is impossible, computer models or no, to predict. Forest fires now consume Designer Homes routinely. We are fond of referring to ecology but not to the principle of, “Nothing works if everything does not work,” and that the most seemingly trivial and innocuous-sounding projects can, like small fires, become chaotic, life-destroying juggernauts that none can stop. the worship of nature has not brought peace but a dozen swords of Damocles all clamoring to be first to pierce our non-innocent skulls. There are even those who blame breathing for all our woes. (sounds like the non-breathing campaign of Pogo; “No, you first…”) The problem is us, as Walt Kelly maintained, with plenty of evidence then and now. We have no idea how deep this goes…
Take genetic engineering. Or better, don’t. The amplification potential of even the smallest manipulations (as if mutations were not harmful enough) is clearly unimaginable, yet we plunge on, like Mr Martinson, thinking all is well at home so long as the timber is stacking up high. Around hearth, heath, and home.
What could possibly go wrong? When you think of it, Mr. Martinson, to hear Inga tell it, was also a raging inferno against God, man, and his own natural daughter, who could not replace four of them. He went on to a total of five marriages, at least four of them with tragic ends.
Yet it was not God who engineered this disaster, but people like Martin Martinson, in fact he and his friends and employers were sitting on a powder keg of their own making. It is possible that some of the embitterment of his losses may have been due to a vague and gnawing sense that he himself had laid some of that timber down that consumed his wife and children. The logging industry and social responsibility, like the housing industry, are not known for their readiness to accept social responsibility. And they do it only when it is mandated by the wider culture, which may (but usually does not) see where the culpability lies. Jet on, Jetsons!
Everybody is on the Greenpeace bandwagon now, but it only became so when profits were threatened. The same is true of virtually all political interference from business, from Big Sugar to Big Daddy Computers Inc. They are more like surfers, looking for the next big wave; and as “surf bums,” they are hard to respect. But what they are looking for is what the public wants, and if they can figure that out, they are rich beyond Croesus. Temporarily. If there was ever a president we actually deserve it would be a cross between Steve Jobs and Donald Trump. As in Animal Farm, it is hard to tell the difference from down below and outside the farmhouse.
W.H. Auden makes the Augustinian distinction between 3 forces: society, community, and the public. The first and the last are only concerned about themselves and preserving their fought-for advantages and the liberties that remove those of others. (c.f. Mark Twain’s, “The War Prayer”) A commmunity may be defined by having an interest and a purpose higher than itself; altho most communities become societies in time, and advance only the status quo; or an abstract concept they would like to make concrete, such as euthanasia, abortion, and eugenics, just to name a few.
I do feel badly, worse as time goes on, for those whose goals are selfish or self righteous; secular and man-centered; and lack the humility that comes normally when one seeks the Actual Presence of God. “There is no fear of God in this city.” It is impossible to anticipate or calculate the harm we may do. Is this a rational time to abandon God, when we are mired in gridlock in so many areas, none of them concocted by God?
Did Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem have any to blame but themselves for the conflagrations and horrors that consumed far more women and children than any fire or tsunami (save one; and even that was ours to own) in ancient times when the population was far less?
Now there is no need to “fret” about what has already been done or set up by overweening ambition. (the wider view and purpose of this blog is not cursing darkness or dark forces.) The housing collapse was brought about by the same human forces that caused the Hinkley fire. (I will not fill in the details as the reader can do that readily on his or her own.) Yet is it not true:
that God has used the detritus/fertilizer of man-made epics to make a way for Christ to come in? Again, I will not elaborate, as I believe as Paul said in Romans that this is self-evident if one merely sees that GOD IS, and the rest of our shortfall shortly fall into place, in the Big Vista.
Is the weather pattern of your life unsettled? Did Eden suffer from tornadoes? What harm does it do, then, to take responsibility for our contribution? Had Mr Martinson taken responsibility for his own load of timber and tinder, he may have not died a bitter and violent man. Is it better to be angry or penitent? Which benefits your neighbor more?
I still believe that belief is a matter of choice, specifically and finally only between two things. However if God is assumed, then the only logical (in hindsight, mostly) solution to our sin problem, and God’s nexus of Mercy and Justice, is an Embodiment of Him Who Alone could follow the rules of the universe and God’s own covenants.
If God is denied, all we have is chaos. Or as Camus said, the only remaining question is whether to commit suicide or not.
It is said that the Hinkley fire was so hot that whole barrels of nails fused together. It sounds like a mercifully quick death, not unlike a nuclear explosion, which we also invented. But all that is really needed to nail it for me are 3 “nine-inch nails,” mocked by the world even in the most Christian-itic of eras, which settles the questions of guilt, and fear, and the future. The chain of responsibility is long, long indeed and goes back from before there was Hinkley, or Minnesota, at all. The accumulation of not only sins and flora and dried fauna but mutations is clearly unbearable unless Christ Creator has borne it already. And it was not the nails that held him to the cross, nor holds our feet to the fire. I was created out of the flames. So were the rest of us, but maybe not as literally.
Even our tongues can readily be read as a world of evil and poison, and a match from a matchbox that “sets the whole world on fire.” (James) If there is aught in these many words of mine that kindles or sustains such blazes, well, to blazes with them, then, and forget please all that I have written. But if one word herein is “in season” and brings peace in a vast worldwide drought; let that one word or phrase bring cool light and the rest perish where flames never rest. Dark fire, dark matter, dark energy; but there is no dark side to His Force, only ours, and the forces that are allowed to destroy us but only of our own bitter will.
“Choose this day whom, or what, your will serve.” Hint: serving mere ideas is no better than idols of wood or stone; and may be worse…be a firefly, not a little match person…