Taken for Granted

I was doing a shoot on Friday night at my home studio when two mildly remarkable things happened. Firstly all four of our phones blared with the emergency siren of a tornado warning and then about ten minutes later, we completely lost power.

In truth we were all so unmoved by the event that we continued to shoot by candle light for another half hour before everyone gathered their stuff and went home.

When I went in home, Morgan and I mused about how strange it was to lose power and how long it might be. I suspected it would be back overnight and, unworried, went off to bed.

When I awoke to a powerless and dark morning, I went down to the office where my two cats looked outside into the pouring rain and darkness and decided they were having none of it.

Apparently they have more sense that me, because top of my list of priorities was coffee and as the black of night turned to rainy grey of the morning, I jumped in my car and headed off to McDonald’s to get a large black one.

As soon as I turned out onto the main road, reality came quickly into focus. There were downed power lines everywhere and tree debris all over the road. The farm beside us (about a half mile south) had been hit by a tornado and here are some images that shows not just what the farm buildings looked like but also the trail of debris that carried across the road and a distance of about 300 yards into the newly built softball diamonds.

Police had just blocked off the road at the farm so reaching McDonald’s was out of the question. So after taking these images, I did the obligatory u-turn and headed to the next nearest McDonald’s a few miles north. I only got a mile up the road when I saw that the tornado had also hit roadside there, uprooting trees and taking down numerous power lines in the process.

The extent of the damage on my house is shown in the last of the images, a lone leaf had been mercilessly torn from a tree and landed on my windshield.

So at this point in the blog I could write about how fortunate I was that the tornado hit a half mile south and one mile north of me. Or I could write about how I overcame all this adversity to eventually get that McDonald’s coffee.

But no, the truth of thought really came later in the day as I went through a full day without electricity. Luckily it came back after being off almost 24 hours but the day descended into misery quite rapidly. Loss of power in Florida means no AC, which any modern Floridian will tell you is not a particularly pleasant experience. But for me it also translated into loss of water (I have a well with electric pump) , rapidly followed by the inability to flush a toilet.

So the real thought that this experience created was about how we humans repeatedly take things for granted, as though we are unequivocally entitled to them.

Material losses such as what I experienced yesterday are commonly reminded to us, as power outages, water and plumbing disasters, or occasional leaves on our windshields pretty much happen to us all.

Somehow we deal with them, or moan about them, but then once they are over, we return to mere acceptance of their presence. Carrie told me of a conversation she had with her daughters a few weeks ago, where they just couldn’t understand that a world existed without cell phones and internet. The whole concept of landlines and writing letters was entirely lost on them.

There is a whole generation oblivious to the thought that life existed in a fashion without all this and so they just take for granted that it is there and always will be.

But interestingly enough that is not the message in my mind today.

Because as yesterday wore on and my internal moans fell on my own deaf ears, I began to unravel the rest of the puzzle.

It isn’t just material things we take for granted .. it is truly everything.

I had the stark reality (as we nearly all do eventually) of realizing that my Mom and Dad wouldn’t always be there for me. As I became a middle-aged orphan, the fact that I took them for granted for so much of my life came and firmly slapped me in the face.

I expanded the thought and look beyond my own private world and I am incredulous at how so many people take for granted that the planet we all live on, will always be there. Resting on this assumption, affords many the latitude to destroy so much of it with carelessness and abandon. Hundreds of living species extinguished by governments and industries that frankly couldn’t give a shit.

I also suspect (completely without proof) that the vast majority of people go through their lives taking for granted they will live forever. That their life will always be there. As absurd as that thought is in the cold light of day, very few approach their lives in the knowledge that it is a quantified item. That it will actually run out.

They just take for granted that they will open their eyes tomorrow to a new day and they can dealt with whatever needs to be dealt with then. But each of us knows that there are no such guarantees.

Do we take these things for granted because it creates a false sense of security that allows us to close our eyes in the first place?

Quite possibly … but while none of us should work to the assumption that today is our last day alive, we should also respect the possibility that it may well be.

Willful blindness to the opposite leave important things unsaid and critical things undone.

My advice for what it’s worth today is tell those you love that you do. And do what you can today to make the planet a better place for you having lived on it. Others will have to live on it, once you are gone.

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