I had an easier time than many New Yorkers last night. I live in Chelsea, which is blacked out and partly under water. But I’m weathering the storm on the Upper East Side, where damage is minimal. Uptown looks no worse than after a hard rain. The images from downtown, as well as parts of Brooklyn and much of Staten Island, are apocalyptic.
Because I was lucky enough to be secure in life and property last night, I had the luxury of thinking philosophically. I thought mostly of Spinoza, who instructed his readers: “I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.”
According to Spinoza, the evaluation of natural events is folly. Because nothing happens for a purpose, all that we can do is attempt to understand events’ causes–and to guard against their consequences. As they survey the destruction, whether in person, on the Internet, or on television, some readers may find this thought monstrous. This morning, I find it oddly comforting.