Wednesday, October 31, 2012

LIZ SMITH: A World Lit By Fire

A six-alarm fire in the flooded borough of Queens, New York (
A World Lit By Fire
by Liz Smith
Wednesday, October 30, 2012

"A World Lit By Fire" was already a famous history book title that reminded us of all the years mankind hunkered down around blazing logs, lit candles, followed torches, fooled around with whale oil and kerosene lanterns.

This reminder of how important instant heat, warmth and light, and now instant communication is staggering. (This is not to denigrate the much-more-important loss of life, property, homes, and everything people hold dear. In Queens, New York, 80 houses burned in the middle of the flood.)
The aftermath in Queens.
There is no question I lucked out. I moved out of my Murray Hill apartment before Sandy arrived. I went to be with my 14-year-old godson in midtown Manhattan and we kept electricity and TV, so far. If I had stayed put, I would be on my 26th floor in the dark.

I have long been pondering the question of an overcrowded city dwelling population connected by social services and high technology, and I was asking what the vagaries of war, revolution, terrorism, or a cataclysmic weather event might mean?

Although many of us are still connected to the Internet, many others are not. And cell phones don't all work. So there is chaos and stalemate. I began to wonder if the part of the world that hates the United States really would approve of no international travel, the end of U.S. business, culture. And would they really be better off without us on this planet?

Our hearts go out to all the tragedies of this weather calamity.

But the fact that my simplistic words can still be seen by many of you is simply amazing. It has made the coming election seem irrelevant, although thank God for FEMA. So I am sitting around wondering if I should volunteer at a shelter or, just accept my age and general uselessness, and wait it out. Maybe I will get fit enough to walk up 26 floors so I can change my clothes. Or just buy new ones, helping small business.

Even a world lit by fire cannot be dismissed. Think of Lincoln reading by a fireplace. And writing on the clay back of a shovel. And just by the way, if you can read the words of David Von Drehle on Lincoln in the latest Time magazine, don't miss it.
Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand at Antietam in 1862. (IMAGE BY ALEXANDER GARDNER / LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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