As you may know, much of the East Coast of the United States will be stuck under Hurricane Irene for the next few days. I send safe wishes to all.
As you may know, the same region also experienced an earthquake last week. I hope no one reading suffered too much damage or distress. What are the probabilities of an earthquake AND a hurricane so close together, on the East Coast? Very small. I imagine everyone shaking their heads.
I’m thinking about worry and fear.
Someone said, on Twitter, “Earthquakes are scary. Period.” But that’s not true. When the earthquake hit, I wondered what all the fuss was about. A 5.8 on the Richter Scale? How is that scary? We eat 5.8 for breakfast here in Northern California, like so much ground pepper.
The East Coast earthquake was scary mostly because it was out of the ordinary. As a result, nobody builds for earthquakes back east, nobody knows what to do if one hits. High rises shook more violently than they do here, bricks fell apart, stuff cracked. Everyone ran out of their buildings. For reference, never run out of your building in an earthquake.
So the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia had a stronger physical impact than in Northern California. But that’s not the full story. We are all simply more scared of what we don’t know. That’s not the full story either. I think each of us feels certain types of risk more painfully than others.
I worried for years about three large Monterey Pines next to my house, worried that they would fall over and crush someone or something I loved. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I cut them down and haven’t missed them since. What worried me most was that if the pines fell, I would know I had been lazy. I would know I was at fault.
I am more scared of doing a bad job than of most anything else.
Some people hate what they can’t prepare for. Some of us hate, even more, the idea we might prepare badly. We prefer the random strike. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m an atheist. Random seems kinder than rules I might break, unwittingly. Better an earthquake than the predicted hurricane. With an earthquake, I prepare for probabilities. There’s water in the garage, two lanterns, first aid kit, etc. And then I brush my hands together and go about my day.
We’ve all got worry profiles. Probably it would be a good thing, to understand yours, before the hurricane hits. The trick being to fear what you must, and not much more.