The Decietful Sun
A few years ago I read Their Eyes Were Watching God for some class or another. Near the end of the story the main characters find themselves living on the mud flats of Florida, harvesting beans for a living. They’re happy and while it’s harvest season they can make enough money to get by; and the harvest weather is beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky. Then one day a caravan of Natives goes through their area. The workers are used to seeing the Natives move inland before storm season hits, but this year the Natives are significantly early. The Natives warn the workers there that they’ve read the signs, and a terrible storm is coming, and coming earlier than usual. The workers dismiss the Native’s warning. After all the weather was fantastic, clear blue from horizon to horizon. The main characters get a little worried, but they know that every day they stay and harvest means more money for the off season. Their income is too much to risk on the possibility of a bad storm. So they stay and the weather holds out for another week before, naturally, the biggest storm of the century shows up, a huge lake bursts it’s banks, the flats are violently flooded, and thousands of people are killed. Who couldn’t see that coming?
When I read through that section I got really upset with the main characters. I wished that I could hop into the book and give the workers on the flats a talking to. I wished I could be in their place and tell everyone “The Natives have been here longer than anyone else; they know what they’re talking about. If you stay here you’ll probably die. As for me and my family, we’re moving inland.” Why did people have to be so foolish?
Lets leave the book and find a new scene; Anchorage, Alaska, two weeks ago. One day while driving to work my wife noticed some ice on the roads. We knew that we would need to acquire some studded snow tires. I’ve seen Anchorage in the middle of winter before: the ice never melts, it just builds up on the roads until there’s a good inch or two of compacted ice on top of the asphalt. I know there is some controversy over whether people should use studded tires, but if there is anywhere it is justified it’s up here. I knew that driving on Anchorage ice with my summer tires (which were already worn from driving all the way up here from Oregon) was foolishness of the highest order. Over the weekend I called local tire dealers for quotes until I found the best deal. Naturally even the best deal was a lot of money. Still, I knew I couldn’t go without.
Then the weather got nice. Anchorage was hit with some unseasonably warm weather. The skies were clear, the air was nice, and the roads showed no sign of icing. Still this was just a freak warm spell. Winter was still coming. The roads were still going to become little ice rinks before long. So naturally I thanked God for this buffer period and had the tires put on. Right?
Actually I let the warm weather lull me into complacency. I really didn’t want to spend that much money. I knew I had to, but I didn’t want to. So I just put it off. I stopped thinking about it. I enjoyed the warm weather.
When I got into the car this Monday there was ice on the windshield.
I spent the whole day cursing my own foolishness. I checked the weather report and it confirmed my fears: ice was coming, and a lot of it. I was putting myself in serious danger. I was putting my wife in serious danger. And it was all because I chose to ignore what I knew to be true because it was sunny and I wanted to save money.
In other words pretty much exactly like those workers in the story who I berated for being fools.
The moral of the story is that we are all susceptible to do foolish things. We are all wired on some level to believe that what we have now will last forever. It’s sunny today, so it will always be sunny. We want to believe that. Wisdom is putting such feelings aside and doing what you know needs to be done.
Otherwise the results could be lethal.
NOTE: I did manage to get some snow tires last minute, so don’t worry too much about me.