Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Lightning rods and acts of God

Doesn't 'death by misadventure' sound like a good way to go? The phrase suggests death occurred while pursuing a passion. This is exactly what happened in the unfortunate case of a 57 year old golfer who died recently after being struck by lightning on a golf course last year.

I have seen golfing do silly things to otherwise rational people. On holidays all they wish to do is wake up at unearthly hours, drive several hours, then walk around in the blazing sun while hitting a little white ball around.
Often golfers' scheme, plot, plan and even lie to get away from their wives in order to reach their place of worship: the country club. Sunstroke, beauty sleep and family be damned. It's all about the golf ball and the green.
Neither, it seems, is death caused by being struck by bolts of lightning. (Surely nothing can be classified as an 'Act of God' more perfectly than being struck by lightning!) Well, it occurs at least often enough for a group of academics to spend someone else's money and their own time studying the phenomenon.
According to a 1981 study published in the Singapore Medical Journal, Singaporeans are more likely to be struck by lightning than most people. Not surprising given the frequency of thunderstorms in the city. Among a sample of seven countries, national 'lightning death' rates vary from Britain's low of 0.2 per million to Singapore's high of 1.7 deaths per million.
Ok, so the probability of being struck by lightning is slim. Of course, the odds of a lightning strike for a golfer are higher. The golfer holds an iron rod in the middle of an open field – it's almost an open challenge to a lightning bolt!
We all must go someday so, for a golfer what better way than on a golf course; or an entertainer dying on stage during a performance, although such an event might traumatize the audience.
Like most forms of death, death by misadventure does not discriminate between kings and ordinary people. If a court were to rule on Mogul Emperor Humayun's death, the verdict would most certainly be recorded as death by misadventure. On January 27, 1556, Humayun tripped down the stairs of his library and struck a mortal blow to his head. (Few scholars mention that his poor balance may have been caused by his alcohol habit.)
Mogul Emperor Humayun (1508-1556) seated in a garden

In my case the odds of being struck by a lightning rod increase each time I publish a blog post challenging 'Mullahism' in Islam. Praise be to Allah, all lightning bolts have eluded me so far.

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