Posted by: owizblog | April 29, 2015

Thought For The Day, BBC Radio Scotland, 28 April 2015: The Nepalese Earthquake

There is nothing more important about Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal than that it’s a human tragedy. I’m sure we all heard the news as it broke with the deeply unsettling sense that the casualty figures, in the hundreds at that point, would rise to the thousands, and it’s for the people whose lives have been changed forever in the scant minute that the quake took to unfold that we must think before all else.

How to begin to understand something like this? We human beings very naturally seize on the iconic, the image we can grasp, especially in an age of instant, compelling visuals. The collapsed ruins of the two-hundred foot Dharahara, or Bimsen Tower, served like that initially; the great watchtower, the tallest building in Kathmandu, must have featured in the memories and photo-albums, of thousands of tourists and visitors to the city; iconic it was, and its fall seemed to give some sort of purchase on the level of destruction the quake had visited on the Nepalese capital.

The trouble is that we tend, in the face of what’s beyond grasping, to latch onto what we can grasp, and stay with it. Understandably; we’re limited beings, with finite capacities. Faced with huge things, we need a way in, provisional understanding that we can work with. It’s when our understanding ceases to be provisional, when we mistake the part we have grasped for the whole, which we haven’t begun to grasp, that this gets dangerous.

If I can grasp anything from the image of a great fallen tower in Kathmandu, it’s that I don’t have the full measure of what has happened in Nepal.

Let me put it very personally. The Nepalese earthquake should challenge my faith. I need to grasp that it’s bigger than I can grasp. It’s easy to miss that the New Testament conception of faith is a living-with-provisional-understandings. “Now we understand in part…” says Paul. Only in the fullness of God’s time will we understand fully. “When the Spirit of truth comes,” says John’s Jesus, “He will guide you into all the truth…”

For now, that will need to do. I daren’t stick with just what I can grasp. It’s too big for that.

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