YOU DON'T HAVE to get religious about it, at least not in a sectarian way. A simple sense of Destiny will do -- Destiny affronted, Destiny offended... Destiny perhaps being even just a tiny bit petulant. So Destiny let us have it: 400 pounds of snow per capita for every man, woman and child in the greater metropolitan area, right on the old beano or in the driveway or on top of the car or -- to worst offenders -- leaking ineluctably through the roof in an everwidening arc of damage across the bedroom ceiling, whichever would be the more immobilizing and inconvenient. (Please don't ask us where we got that statistic. We have our ways.)
The message was fairly clear, however -- a knock in the head to the human pretension of controlling one's own destiny, that whole I-am-the-master-of-my-fate business, which in the world of Washington of course takes on the added dimension of an ambition to be the master of everybody else's fate in the country as well. That may be a particularly Potomocentric view of yesterday's blanketing. But we can hardly be expected to take any other view at the moment, since frankly that's just about all we can see out our office window. So Newark, New Jersey, and Burlington, Vermont, will just have to figure out on their own what they did to bring about the blizzard. From the Washington point of view it was certainly and clearly just a matter of putting us in our place.
But what, you will ask, could the offense have been? Did not even the most self-confident of Washington's free-willers, along with its most meddlesome bureaucrats and overweening politicians, get stuck in last week's epochal door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper, not to say wall-to-wall, traffic jam? Did not they, along with everyone else involved, become involuntary participants in a spectacular demonstration of the pitiable vulnerability of the human condition and all its contingency plans to the cosmic uncertainties of a meteorological change of heart and a subsequently paralyzed bus on P Street?
Well, yes and no. For if we had to make a guess as to the precise source of the affront, it would be the complaining and speculating that went on in the aftermath of that snowstorm.Had Providence (Destiny's cousin) permitted more of you to see the Monday morning Post, for example, you would have noted a full letters-to-the-editor section of communications suggesting that better police work or better some kind of work could have made a crucial difference . Likewise, all over town people had been indulging the conceit that, somehow, it was in our human and bureaucratic power to neutralize, if not entirely negate, the effects on our normal human commerce of such a storm. Ergo (we have no doubt of it) this Monday's escalated reminder that this is not so.
The French, of course, have two words for it: force majeure , meaning relax, there is nothing you can do about it, except maybe try to dig out some modest section of your front stoop. That is one place, we have noticed -- the insistence of some on assaulting the thing physically -- where human persistence and resourcefulness seem sometimes to prevail. The other is in the realm of decent and selfless conduct, instances beyond number of people's risking or forfeiting something in order to help each other out. We would say that the recurring examples of this kind of behavior in the face of harsh elements tell you something about the enduring human capacity to meet and master adversity -- but we don't want to be responsible for the next several thousand tons of snow.