The quake in Italy was felt in Rome. There are those who will say it was 'an act of God', those who will say it was 'a sign' and those who will gather in St Peter's Square in Rome at the weekend and 'pray for the victims'. The rescue of a 98-year old will be hailed as a miracle.
When we reflect, as we do during times of tragedy, on the nature and state of man and his religious and ethical institutions, in this case they are to be found in Rome, do we do right to wonder for example if any Mexican gold from the time of Columbus fell from the ceiling of the Vatican during the shaking of the earth, or if any hairline cracks appeared in the mighty Vatican dome?
There will be those who will point out that quakes are common in Italy, a land that is in geological reality a part of Africa; a continent pushing its way with a boat-people's persistence into Europe. In fact it could have been a lot worse. It will get a lot worse. Italy is the site of the mighty and dependable Vesuvius who sits quietly smoking his pipes and waiting for the moment of his next fiery outburst.
"alike in ignorance [...] created half to rise"
Of the Nature and State of Man With Respect to Himself, as an Individual
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the skeptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer,
But born to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)