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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Heaven-sent lightning, then and now

When James Otis died of a lightning strike in 1783, his eulogy ended with the following:

Yes, when the glorious work which he begun
Shall stand the most complete beneath the sun –
When peace shall come to crown the grand design,
His eyes shall live to see the work divine –
The heavens shall then his generous spirit claim,
In storms as loud as his immortal fame.
Hark! the deep thunders echo round the skies!
On wings of flame the eternal errand flies;
One chosen, charitable bolt is sped,
And Otis mingles with the glorious dead.

It had been several decades since Ben Franklin had proved that lightning was merely the discharge of electricity, but the centuries-old scientific theory, that lightning was specifically sent from heaven to a designated target, obviously still influenced the thinking of the educated class.

How far have we come in another 230 years?

Just last week, someone I know with an advanced degree joked about 'getting struck by lightning' for visiting church as an atheist.

Old ways of thinking die hard.


  1. Might have changed his mind if he had been struck and survived.

  2. And this week, the news has been full of reports of "Nature's Fury" being unleashed--randomly, in this case, "Nature" being neither Wise nor Just.


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