As the old saying goes, some days you can’t win for losin’.
Here are a few examples.
When I was a young newspaperman in suburban Philadelphia, I covered the annual festival put on by a local Native American tribe. They started the weekend-long festivities each year with a colorful Rain Dance ceremony at sunset on Friday.
This particular weekend, rain began to fall soon after the ceremonial dance was finished. It poured all weekend long, washing out the festival quite thoroughly.
The tribe’s chief took it philosophically. “When the Great Spirit sends rain, there’s not much you can do about,” he said. I moved from the Philadelphia area shortly afterward, so I never learned if the tribe started the following year’s festival with the same Rain Dance.
I was reminded of that incident when I learned that “Touchdown Jesus” in Monroe, Ohio, has been struck by lightning and burned to the ground. This 62-foot-tall statue of Christ, made of plastic foam and fiberglass, was erected in front of the evangelical Solid Rock Church in the Cincinnati suburb in 2004. It was dubbed “Touchdown Jesus” because the figure of Christ had its arms upraised — rather like a football referee signaling a score.
Lightning struck it a couple of weeks ago; the resulting fire left nothing but the steel framework.
Darlene Bishop, one of the church’s founders, vows to rebuild the statue, which originally cost $250,000, according to news reports. “But this time,” she promised, “we’re going to try for something fireproof.”
History tells us that when the ingenious Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, some religious leaders proclaimed that it was a tool of impiety. Lightning was obviously sent by God as a punishment; to try to avoid being struck by lightning was trying to evade God’s just wrath. So in many communities, while lightning rods went up on commercial and public buildings, the local churches refused to protect themselves. Since most of those churches featured tall, pointed spires that were natural targets for lightning bolts, churches were struck by lightning and burned fairly regularly.
Then there’s the disturbing survey from Great Britain that found that men are not getting up from their seats on public buses to offer them to pregnant women as often as they did 10 years ago. According to the people who ran the survey, the problem is not because British men are less polite than they used to be. The problem is that British women are much more obese than they once were. Apparently men hesitate to offer a bulbous woman their seat because there’s a chance that she’s not pregnant, she’s merely overweight. Rather than risk embarrassment, or a nasty scene, the men keep their seats.
Some days you can’t win for losin’.
When I was living in the Boston area the newspapers reported a mugging incident in the city. During the winter the sun goes down early in New England; by 5 p.m. it’s fully night there. One winter evening a mugger attacked a woman as she came out of her place of employment, knocked her to the pavement and grabbed her purse.
Unfortunately for the mugger, the woman’s place of employment was a karate school, and a whole class full of students came trooping out to the street while the thug was grappling with his victim. The students quickly put their lessons to practical use. By the time the police arrived, the assailant was overjoyed to see them.
Then there are the poor souls who’ve seen their homes destroyed by floods, wildfires or other natural disasters. The most recent case was in Flagstaff, Ariz., where thousands of families were forced to abandon their homes because of a raging wildfire that’s consumed more than 14,000 acres of woodlands.
It’s heartbreaking to see your home destroyed, but part of the problem is that the home shouldn’t have been built there in the first place. Putting up houses in flood plains or forests prone to fires in the dry season is just asking for disaster.
I should talk. I live on the Gulf of Mexico. One of these days I won’t be able to win for losin’ to a hurricane or rising sea levels.
Ben Bova is the author of nearly 125 books, including “The Hittite,” his first historical novel. Dr. Bova’s website address is www.benbova.com