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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A lone raindrop in the desert

   After spending a few days on the coast of  Kauai, one can be forgiven for thinking that, in the battle of rock versus water, rock always wins. My wife and I witnessed countless huge waves drive fruitlessly into the ancient lava and rock shores, only to have to regroup and come again. These islands, and these rock shores, have stood for millennia  (sorry, young earthers) and have yielded little.
   But not always. On April 1, 1946, a tsunami raked the northern coasts of the Hawaiian Islands. The giant wave blasted a hole in the middle of a small sandstone island that sits right off La'ie Point on Oahu, leaving behind an unique sight.
(click to enlarge)
As La'ie Point proves, on occasion the water comes with such force that even stone cannot resist. Here's an interesting paragraph from the book The Lighthouse Stevensons, the story of the Scottish family of lighthouse builders, and the ancestors of author Robert Louis Stevenson:
When finally finished, long after Louis had departed for more promising places, the breakwater stood intact for four years until a spectacular storm in December 1872 destroyed the entire harbor, shifting one massive block of stone weighing 1,350 tons and folding the whole structure into the sea. Tom was devastated. In fact, his reaction was far more extreme than the incident warranted. But he had based his professional faith on studying the sea, learning its moods, its tempers, and its breaking points, and the discovery that much of his life's work was founded on a miscalculation was almost unbearable. The early studies he had made of the force of waves were based on the movements of ten- or fifteen-ton blocks, not of something that weighed as much as the whole mass of Bell Rock Lighthouse. His reaction was initially incredulous, then defensive. He published papers complaining of the force of the elements the Stevensons contended with, photographs of immense waves smashing against the harbor walls,  anything that might vindicate his position. Eventually, once the disputing was over, the breakwater was rebuilt, this time with a 2,600 ton foundation block in place. In 1877 another apocalyptic storm washed it away. Tom could do nothing but turn away in disgust.
   A five-million-plus pound rock moved by the force of the sea! We must all react with awe at that fact. As my favorite atheist, Christopher Hitchens, says: "Nature is boss, and she is pitiless."
   If there is no God, which is Hitchens's presumption, then we must indeed, allow that Nature is supreme, at least over man. But if there is a God, which is my presumption (to be fair), then the power that spews acidic clouds into the air from Iceland (Hitchens's topic), or punches a hole into an island of rock, or tosses a multi-million pound stone like a toy, is no more than a lone raindrop falling in a vast desert.

         More than the sounds of many waters,
         Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
         The LORD on high is mighty.  Psalm. 93:4.

—Wayne S.

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