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natural disasters“At any moment a comet may come too close to the earth and set our little globe turning topsy-turvy in a hectic course, or choke its men and fleas with fumes or heat; or a fragment of the smiling sun may slip off tangentially–as some think our planet did a few astronomic moments ago–and fall upon us in a wild embrace ending all grief and pain. We accept these possibilities in our stride, and retort to the cosmos in the words of Pascal: ‘When the universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the universe knows nothing.’

History is subject to geology. Every day the sea encroaches somewhere upon the land, or the land upon the sea; cities disappear under the water, and sunken cathedrals ring their melancholy bells. Mountains rise and fall in the rhythm of emergence and erosion; rivers swell and flood, or dry up, or change their course; valleys become deserts, and isthmuses becomes straits. To the geologic eye all the surface of the earth is a fluid form, and man moves upon it as insecurely as Peter walking on the waves to Christ.” (Will & Ariel Durant, Lessons of History, Chp. 2)

This is beautiful and contains great wisdom. Will Durant also discusses geology and civilization in chapter one of Our Oriental Heritage (volume one of his magisterial Story of Civilization). Here he says: “Civilization is an interlude between ice ages: at any time the current of glaciation may rise again, cover with ice and stone the works of man, and reduce life to some narrow segment of the earth. Or the demon of earthquake, by whose leave we build cities, may shrug his shoulders and consume us indifferently.”

I recommend to your attention Durant’s Lessons of History. In it he sums up in 100 pages what he learned over forty years of writing the eleven volume Story of Civilization. Lessons is one of the most profound books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Books by Will Durant and more information about the conservative view of natural disasters may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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