Happened, on my way out at sparrow's yesterday morning, to pick up an old unread copy of Harper's, an infrequent treat. I honestly don't know why I hadn't read it, but I hadn't, and it is perfect for long flights. What with the delays and everything, I got to it sooner than expected, and was struck by several weirdnesses.
A long and thoroughly entertaining article telling me more than I ever thought I'd want to know about the Formosan termite, Coptotermes formosanus, by Duncan Murrell. The weird part? The article is rooted in New Orleans, and the issue in question is dated August 2005, just before the big blow. But did we hear anything at all about the impact of Katrina on those termites? We did not. There's an internal weirdness too, when Murrell finds himself on Marais Street during the biggest termite swarm he's ever seen, “a coincidence so stupendous I begin yammering to myself and scribbling notes on the back of my hand as I drive”. Naturally he rushes home to reread the final troubling chapter of Eugene Marais' Soul of the White Ant.
Bill McKibben has a thoughtful essay on the nature of Christianity in America, which observes in the plainest possible terms that what most Christians believe is about as far removed from the old WWJD question as I am from beatitude. The weird part? Having written so well about the problem with Christianity in America, I was surprised (but that's a reflection of my own ignorance of his work) that McKibben is himself a (different kind of) Christian. He makes much of the injunction to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Why does one have to believe in fairies to do that?
A devastating autopsy on the corpse of electoral democracy in Ohio, by Mark Crispin Miller, lays out all the rotten organs for everyone to see, and asks repeatedly why the press simply ignored John Conyers' report on the Ohio election in 2004. Given the evidence in the article, I simply don't understand how anyone can imagine that the mainstream media in America are somehow in the clutches of liberals. They clearly know enough to do the Republicans' bidding without having to be told. The weird part? There isn't really one, apart I suppose from the resounding silence that continues. How many voting machines are going to play their allotted parts in the forthcoming mid-terms?
The magazine's customary piece of fiction is a lovely, strange story by the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, about a cop searching for the perpetrator of a very odd series of “crimes” who eventually ends up working as his chief suspect's lawyer and business advisor. The weird part? I had, that very morning, read The Economist's obituary of Mahfouz. Had I not, I doubt that I would have even started the story.
There's probably more, but the point of this post is simply to say that the day has been one long demonstration of events that go way beyond coincidence to indicate providence of a most meaningful kind. Except that it hasn't. It has, rather, been a demonstration of the infinite capacity of the human mind (well, strictly speaking just my mind) to find purpose and meaning where there plainly isn't any.
p.s. I'd have provided links to all the above, but with usurious airport connection rates I'm going to skip that part. Maybe I'll take up the challenge when I get to where wireless is free.