Some weeks the news seems overwhelming. Hurricane Floyd slams into the East Coast forcing millions to evacuate. A gunman bursts into a prayer service in Fort Worth, blowing away himself and six other people.
Congress sends the White House a $792 billion tax cut bill that took months to complete and is already destined for veto-dom. Bomb blasts go off in Russia, as the country appears gripped by crises of terrorism, financial corruption and political chaos. Militia thugs continue their bloody march through East Timor, prompting the United Nations to launch a multinational force to restore order.
Kind of reminds you of the old Gilda Radner newscaster character on Saturday Night Live who used to end her spiels by reminding us, "If it's not one thing, it's another."
Most of these stories have little to do with one another. But taken together, they are a striking reminder of the complexity of modern life.
Even as we wish to focus on domestic problems, we are forced to consider global issues, because of their potential impact on us.
Just when we think our technology has taken us to a new level, as with hurricane tracking, we realize that we have no control over the impulses of nature, and that most of the predictions about where and when the hurricane would land were wrong.
And of course, despite our efforts to make laws that protect ourselves (and whether or not we think gun controls are a good idea,) we must all realize that someone who is intent on mass murder in this country is unlikely to be stopped.
The idea of civilization is an attempt to impose some kind of order on the wild universe. But this has been one of those periods that serves to remind how futile our efforts can be.
No, I'm not suggesting that we throw up our hands and stand by idly as the Indonesian militia thugs rampage through East Timor. I'm not suggesting that we refrain from analyzing why someone would attack a group of churchgoers.
I am, however, sorely tempted to suggest that Congress stop wasting its time on packages that have no hope of passing, in order to rack up political brownie points.
The point is that times like this are good for reflection, humility and for honoring the human spirit. We know that forces beyond our command will always overcome our efforts to control our fate.
But we also know that somewhere in humankind there will ever be the will and creativity to improve and ennoble our existence.