Monday, March 4, 2013

I Can't Get No

Late last week, a sinkhole opened up beneath Jeffrey Bush's bedroom in Seffner, Florida. Bush fell into it. He is presumed dead and his body was never recovered. Authorities are now demolishing the house.

There's nothing remarkable about sinkholes, homes, or people being in their bedrooms. It's fairly easy to take the facts of the story and construct a simple narrative of what happened and can look at the history and geology of the area and understand why it happened. But, as this story on NPR points out, this doesn't answer why Jeffrey Bush specifically was "swallowed" by a sinkhole. And, as the story goes on to relate, for many people, that lack of a deeper explanation of the Earth's seemingly human-like behavior (after all, inanimate objects do not "swallow" in the same way that you or I might) leaves and unsatisfying gap in the narrative.

"Can we ever provide a satisfying explanation for human tragedy?" asks the author.

But the question that I find myself more interested in is why are the facts of the case considered so "deeply unsatisfying" as an explanation of what happened. I have to admit that I don't "get" it. For me, the world is "random" like that - it behaves in ways that we can't predict in real time. And I'm totally okay with that - sometimes, you're the windshield and sometimes, you're the bug. The explanations of what happened are, as the article points out, perfectly reasonable, and so I marvel at the small powers of the natural world, then shrug my shoulders and move on.

So, from where does a need for a deeper, more "satisfying" narrative come from? Is it a social thing, learned from people around us? Is there an evolutionary advantage in this wanting something more? Does it ebb and flow or is it a constant?

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