A drunk young father whose name is Lee fails to put a screen in front of the logs in the fireplace. He makes a run on foot to the convenience store for more beer. As he returns he bears witness to fire consuming his house. Outside, his wife is being restrained from going back inside to save the two toddlers and infant.
The father is forever changed. As Lee observes years later when he returns to Manchester, "he can't shake it." When the film ends, we see small signs of healing. But, obviously, Lee s been transformed, for better or for worse, by the unthinkable.
During the summer of 2014, St. Philip's Church in Tucson, Arizona, conducted a weekly seminar on all aspects of catastrophe. Those ranged from the scientific definition of the phenomenon to how traditional religions recommend managing it.
Catastrophe, of course, is not new. The "Book of Job" is an early template of extreme seemingly unmerited suffering.
What is different about catastrophe in the 21st century is that it's, well, become commonplace. So many lost loved ones in 9/11. Check LinkedIn and there it is: Colleagues position themselves as looking for a new opportunity. Plan dinner with an old friend. Oh no, there are signs of memory issues.
As a society, can we become socialized to not dish the platitudes or heap blame on those who have become contemporary versions of biblical Job? Probably not.
At the end of the St. Philip's seminar, we who had experienced catastrophe agreed that afterward we had to leave most of the relationships of the past behind. It would take time, probably lots of it, to find our way back to trust.
In an ebook which had a million downloads - "Geezer Guts" - I recounted how darkness fell in 2003.
The 14 years which have followed have been a period of stop and start in letting go. I mourn what had been. And my former self.
Likely those most full of platitudes about what occurred and the source of blame are ourselves. Managing catastrophe might be the most formidable rite of passage for adults.
If Don Draper from "Mad Men" were still creating Kodak Carousels, he might be putting together one on how humans fail to bond emotionally, socially and professionally with catastrophe.
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