Who watches over us?
Lea Guilbeaut had a life many would envy. She had a good job, and by all accounts her marriage to her husband, Hani Beitinjaneh, was a very happy one. On her birthday the couple decided to go eat sushi at a small trendy restaurant on Peel St. They chose their own table outside so they could enjoy the sun (since it had been such a rainy summer). Meanwhile, a huge slab of concrete 18 floors above at the Marriot Hotel buckled, and plummeted to the ground. In a matter of seconds, the slab crashed through the glass ceiling and landed squarely on top of Lea, killing her instantly.
These types of events are rare, and yet, they seem to sear their way into our brains. Of particular interest is the fact Lea herself had tragically chosen her seat. It’s a powerful reminder that even though we may feel in control over our lives, that feeling is itself merely an illusion. It’s also a frightening reminder of the randomness of life. Such tragedies make us feel vulnerable and afraid. That fear, however, is irrational. This type of incident is incredibly rare. Although I may be tempted to look up in the sky for other falling objects, the truth is it’s very unlikely any one of us will die in this manner. For the most part, the vast majority of us will perish of ‘natural causes’. In other words, we’ll probably die of heart failure, cancer, or the myriad of other ailments that predictably kill the vast majority of us. The fact Lea’s death is so rare demonstrates that although natural disasters are unpredictable and deadly, they are luckily quite infrequent.
The fact life is so random is not something we are very comfortable with. With no omnibenevolent force watching over and protecting us, we can often feel powerless and weak in the face of such disaster. Yes, life can sometimes be breathtakingly cruel (as in Lea’s case), but in general we benefit from the fact that we are surrounded by a huge support network of fellow humans who care deeply about our safety. Some are paid to protect us, but the vast majority are simply strangers who are willing to lend a hand. I didn’t know Lea, but like most people who heard her story, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by her death. Freak accidents may be statistical inevitabilities, but it doesn’t reduce their emotional impact on us one bit.
Our security is dependent almost entirely on the hard work and dedication of our fellow citizens. If your house is on fire, if you’re drowning in a lake or if you fall down a well, odds are good someone will try to save you. You’re surrounded by thousands of potential heroes, many of them willing to risk their own lives to save yours. So although some may wonder “just who is watching over me if there is no God”, you are far safer putting your trust in other human beings than in some mysterious cosmic entity. Life may seem random and cruel sometimes, but one thing is for sure: we don’t have to be.
This article is in response to this question, which I felt needed to be answered properly.