Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California writes following the tanker truck accident in the Bay area.
Gasoline tankers and black swans
May 1, 2007 at 12:39 PM
“Huge leaping flames from an exploding gasoline tanker melted the steel underbelly of a highway overpass in the East Bay's MacArthur Maze early this morning, causing it to collapse onto the roadway below and virtually ensuring major traffic problems for weeks to come.”
This was the opening of the San Francisco Chronicle article on the MacArthur Maze crash on Sunday, April 29.
Monday night, April 30, we had the Taize’ service in Grace Cathedral. The diverse, devout crowd of 240 people who chanted and prayed for their communities’ deepest concerns had come from all over the Bay Area, many from areas affected by the crash. Students from CDSP took BART; people from Walnut Creek and other East Bay communities took BART. They were all smiling about the experience.
I think this crash, expensive, terrifying, inconvenient, is what we might call a “black swan” event. The great American poet, James Merrill, in his poem “The Black Swan,” has a very Anglo little boy, in a field of white and light, see a black swan on a pond. At the end of the poem, in ecstasy the boy exclaims, “I love the black swan.”
Unintended, unimagined events, wrecking our models and our plans, can lead us to where we need to be, can be occasions of love, and produce the happiness and mode of life for which we long at the deepest level of our being.
As many of you know, I didn’t have even our low emissions/high fuel efficiency hybrid car when I first came to the Diocese. Everything was walking, bus, or BART. I re-learned some things during those months: I was happier being with humanity while traveling, than in my wondrous car (even with its six-CD changer, and the GPS); the people on the bus and BART often spoke to me about their faith, their search for God, their desire to connect with a church, and moving on the earth while leaving a smaller carbon footprint was satisfying.
We need to make an effort to reduce our carbon emissions. Maybe this black swan event is an invitation to change our way of life, to consciously maintain the forced, unlooked for change and embrace it, to say, “I love the black swan.” Try to take public transportation twice during the workweek, or to walk or ride your bicycle to work twice a week. And, if you can afford it, look into your next car being a hybrid. Or, follow the example of my friend, Marion Grau, who teaches theology at CDSP, and do most of your smaller travel by foot and bicycle, and when you need to drive use a shared car. She says that the shared car organization of which she is a member works so well that even if she requests a car the day before she needs it, she usually gets it.
The spiritual truth here is that the ways of God, humility and simplicity, are not only good for our planet, our beautiful home that is in so much trouble, but also produce happiness in us, as we align ourselves with the image of God within and among us.