When should we follow obvious fools? I blogged about Mbah Maridjan, the guardian of Mt. Merapi and an aspirant for a Darwin Award, several months ago and now he has finally received his anticipated reward — he got himself killed through his own stupid behavior. Enjoy some video nonsense. This just in from apnews.myway.com:
Marno, an officer at the Sardjito hospital’s morgue said 28 people were killed. [By Mt. Merapi’s eruption.] More than a dozen others have been hospitalized, mostly with burns, respiratory problems and other injuries.
Among the dead was Maridjan, an 83-year-old man who had been entrusted by a highly respected late king to watch over the volcano’s spirits.
“We found his body,” said Suseno, a member of the search and rescue team, amid reports that the old man was found in the position of praying, kneeling face-down on the floor.
Maridjan, who for years led ceremonies in which rice and flowers were thrown into the crater to appease spirits, has angered officials in the past by refusing to evacuate even during eruptions.
This mountain sage made it onto international TV as a living hero. I saw him interviewed at length by a droolingly idiotic reporter who obviously idolized this old fool. Here was a geriatric man who wasn’t afraid of the volcano because he lived near it all his life and understood its human moods. He was officially appointed and perhaps paid as the mountains guardian protector. He knew and loved the volcano and it knew and loved him. There is an old campfire saying, Smoke follows beauty, and for some reason this delusional icon thought the volcano had a special relationship with him personally and that its steaming hot smoke and pyroclastic flows would go some other way if he was friendly to it and always respectful to its obvious power.
The problem for our world is that this kind of thinking permeates humanity and Humanity is on a collision course with the obvious. We are in a boom-and-bust type of situation and because the world economy is presently booming everyone is happy, healthy, wise and wealthy. Well, maybe our society is wise in the short term but not so wise in the long term. It is similar to the volcano which just killed sage Maridjan, who was known to be wise and successful right up to the last moment. It is easy to look at the modern world with its seven billion population of happy, healthy people and know for a certainty that we are doing the right thing. Right? Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s just short term success we are reveling in.
The city of Yogyakarta, with a population over 300 thousand (at -7.77, 110.38), is only 25 kilometers from the peak of Merapi (at -7.54, 110.45), and the suburban towns like Hargo Binangun (at -7.60, 110.43) at 6 km away and Samiran (-7.50, 110.46) at 5 km are obviously much closer. These places are too close to evacuate after an explosive eruption occurs and sometimes these Indonesian volcanoes do explode — remember Krakatau (at -6.102, 105.423) 580 km west in 1883, and Tambora had an even bigger explosion (at -8.25, 118) 800 km east in 1815.
We had a similar situation here in the United States with an old dude living not nearly so close to Mt. Saint Helens as the millions of people in Yogyakarta live near Mt. Merapi. Here is an interesting interview with Harry Truman made shortly before the volcano erupted and killed him. Musical rendition of Mt. Saint Helens photos. A few seconds of real time video of Saint Helens during the eruption gives you an idea of how difficult it would be to run away at the last minute. A suggestion to those who want to die of old age:
Prepare for untimable local events by avoiding obviously dangerous locations.