Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Chelyabinsk Meteor - A Reminder of Our Fragility

The Russian meteor over Chelyabinsk may be one of those moments in history that will go down as marking a turning point in our global civilization. The hair-raising videos captured by residents of the Urals and posted all over the Internet are yet one more instance of catastrophe in one part of the settled world immediately being shared and lived with people everywhere. But on top of that, the spectacle of a fireball raining down from heaven is such an iconic image of the end of time that there are very few people whose thoughts didn't spring to celestial retribution for sin and sloth. The amazing thing is how few deaths there really were. It was like we got the warning and the big bang and the glass shattering, but were spared any of the pain. Nowadays, of course, we laugh at notions of messages from the beyond, but really, even if you disavow thoughts of a creative transcendent spirit able to pull the strings of time and space and send rocks hurtling at will at recalcitrant beings on a distant outcrop of a planet, it's not too far-fetched to admit that the image of the meteor, and the dangers it represents of planetary peril, has brought people closer together in the way of a memento mori, a reminder of the fragility of our presence in the vast reaches of space, and the need we have of being more mindful of the care we take of each other. Indeed, one of the immediate and most interesting after-shocks of the meteor's fiery end were calls at the highest levels of the Russian government for a joint US-Russian and Chinese military effort going forward to identify and counter space debris which poses a high risk of massive destructive force against our people, anywhere on Earth.
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