Good and Evil in the Grand Canyon
By Robert Urbanek
About 1977, my mother and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon. At our first stop, Mather Point, I was surprised to hear someone call my name. I turned to my left and saw a fellow employee approaching me. We both worked as editors on the same newspaper chain in Bellflower, California. In fact, he sat at the desk in front of me. He was on his way back from vacation; I was just beginning mine.
At the time, I did not think much of this interesting coincidence as I had heard of people meeting friends while touring Europe. However, two decades later, as the coincidences began to pile on, I reexamined the trip and found meaning in the location of our meeting.
I had purchased a photography guide at the Grand Canyon. The booklet recommended against shooting pictures at midday; the bright, overhead sun made the canyon look featureless. Better to shoot near dawn or sunset, when shadows gave depth and beauty to the canyon walls. Inclement weather also gave good opportunities for interesting shots, said the guide, which showed examples of storm clouds rolling along the top of the canyon and a post-storm rainbow arching across the walls.
The Grand Canyon is like Life: Many only want to venture out when the Light and Goodness is everywhere, but at such times life is flat and uninteresting. Only when Light struggles with Darkness, and Good fights with Evil, do we see true beauty and drama. The shadows and storms of existence show us the depth and dimensions of life.
Another chance meeting occurred about 1994 on a Christmas trip to Southern California. Halfway from Napa to Buena Park in Orange County, I heard a honking horn from a passing recreational vehicle. At the next rest stop, near Kettleman City, I believe, I was approached by one of the occupants of the RV, who was a former girlfriend I had known from a few years back. She was returning to Los Angeles. Later, on that trip, I took her to dinner and we exchanged gifts, but the evening ended early. As we met in the "middle of nowhere," I was not sure of the metaphysical meaning, if any, to be interpreted from the encounter.
Devil dance I noted a similar encounter reported on a reformatted episode of the Lawrence Welk Show that aired in 2000 on PBS. Dancer Bobby Burgess, a former member of the Mouseketeers, recalled that during a trip to Lake Tahoe, he had decided on a whim to stop at the Devil's Postpile, a rock formation east of Yosemite. The Postpile consists of columns of dark volcanic rock that display a honeycomb pattern. As he walked back from the site, Burgess spotted Walt Disney, his former employer, coming toward him. They exchanged comments. Shortly thereafter, Disney died.
Again I wondered if the site of the meeting, the Devil's Postpile, had any significance. Perhaps such unusual encounters and other forms of synchronicity are the "work of the devil." If so, we need to rethink our concept of Satan.
I got out my California map. West of Kettleman City, the site of my coincidental meeting with my ex-girlfriend, is the Diablo Range. Diablo means devil.
Fatalism The battle between God and the devil may not be a conflict between good and evil but a contest between free will and fatalism. God argues that we are free to choose our path in life. Satan counters that meaningful coincidences are evidence that our lives are scripted and free will is an illusion. The paradox is that if humanity accepts Satan’s argument, it would then recognize how it is being manipulated and, for the first time in history, truly exercise free will.
Alas, that could mean the game or show is over. We, the actors, have refused to read our lines and have walked off the stage. God might “end the program” and all the data and memory that constitutes the history of the universe would be recycled into another game.
Image Grand Canyon, National Park Service, public domain
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