Power and Gloryhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/power-and-glory-2/

Power and Glory

There’s no getting the better of nature.

There’s no getting the better of nature.

Mother nature is one hell of an egoist; she really is a loud show-off. The recent cyclone Phailin had apparently packed the power of 100 hydrogen bombs. What the heck was she thinking? If that’s not uncivilised overkill,what is? The smoke and dust from Krakatoa’s explosion apparently circled the globe seven times (saat phere!). We all know what the last tsunami did. Mother Nature stirs in her sleep and entire cities are flattened. (Can you imagine what would happen if the tectonic plates got hay-fever?) Lightning spears down and vast swathes of land are consumed by ferocious wildfires.

I guess she throws these tantrums from time to time just to remind us where we get off and who can really blame her? After all,we’re busy fouling her air,poisoning her water and ravaging her landscapes so we can scoop out gold and diamonds,coal,oil and uranium and stuff like that. But really,there is no need for 100-feet tsunamis or 9.5-Richter tremblers or 300-kmph tornadoes. Even in her calmest,most benign moods,she can remind us just who is the more powerful.

Take the seaside on a balmy day. The wavelets sigh and quiver in a lacy froth around your toes. You enter the water,and as you wade in deeper,you begin to feel the immense incipient power of the ocean as it gently buffets and tugs at you. Nothing uncouth here,just a gentle reminder of great muscles flexing around you. Ignore the warnings,and suddenly you feel that powerful tug at your ankles as the undertow swirls around them. No taking liberties friend,you’ve come far enough,go back to paddling in the shallows and collecting starfish on the beach.


Then,there’s that other great centre of power: the mountains. They’ve drawn us to them since time immemorial. All our great gurus find enlightenment while meditating on mountaintops. Alas,so bedazzled and befuddled are they (and often so full of weed) that most then preach in terms no one else can remotely comprehend. But we are duly awed and humbled and bow before them,because they’ve been up there,naked and alone,and have been shown the light. We drive up to the mountains in droves to salve our souls (and developers cover the slopes with hideous resorts having internet and Wifi,like warts on a flawless complexion). The mountains are the abode of the gods after all. They invigorate us and reduce our blood pressure. And they’re always there.

This alas,is not enough for some of us. Like everything else in nature,we have to “conquer” them. Get to the top and thumb our noses at the world and show the peaks just who’s the boss. It doesn’t matter if we strew trash along the slopes,as long as we get to the top and plant our flag there and get our picture taken (for Facebook mostly). But it’s good to remember,as one sensible mountaineer famously said of Everest (I think): “You do not climb Everest. Everest allows you to climb her.” Or words to that effect. All it takes is one dislodged boulder,or a sneeze in the wrong place on a snow-laden mountainside and your entire expedition can be wiped out in five seconds. The power is always there,waiting to be unleashed. Mountains may seem calm and benign and ethereally beautiful,but they are hair-trigger hosts and have notoriously short tempers and demand respect. No liberties here.

And if we’re still feeling a little too big for our boots,it’s best to strap them on and hike out to where the night sky is really dark and look up. Any place away from the bright city lights will do. Sure we’ve sent rockets and probes up there,with people and monkeys on board,and we can rightfully fluff ourselves up a bit over that. But that, when placed against the sheer infinite scale and scope of the heavens,brimming and shimmering and quivering with kaleidoscopic planets,suns,moons,stars,black holes — pulsing,pulsating,streaking,flaring,exploding,dying and yes,winking,forever winking down at us from a trillion-gazillion-billion light years away.

Makes you want to crawl down the nearest plughole,doesn’t it?

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