Bosnia-Herzegovina is a nation well acquainted with disruption. The tangled history of the Balkans and the misplaced zealotry of political machinery has left this part of the world to rely on faith more than many others. So when a sinkhole suddenly opened up in Sanica, locals began to look for explanations beyond the scientific. Sinkholes are reminiscent of biblical-type punishment. They are relatively unpredictable even in our high-tech era, and they are just a bit eerie. Fear of falling is, psychologists tell us, one of the deepest phobias embedded from our youngest days. It can translate to acrophobia in some adults, but even those who don’t fear high places still shy away from an abrupt edge that appears below our feet. A story by Amel Emric on NBC narrates the responses of some villagers to the growing pit that is already fifty meters wide by thirty meters deep. The hole appeared under a pond shortly after the death of the owner who claimed that he would take everything when he went. The locals wonder whether he absconded with his pond and took it to the afterlife where, I hear, the fishing is choice.
The beliefs of the average citizen flummox the religious specialists. Perhaps it’s because religions have to struggle so hard for any kind of respectability that folk beliefs are simply labeled “superstitions,” but it is what hoi polloi believe that constitutes the main body of religion. One might counter, “but that’s not what really happened”—surely a ghost did not drain a lake and replace it with a perfectly natural sinkhole. Then again, quantum mechanics also tells us that what looks like reality isn’t really what it appears to be either. It may be that a ghost stealing a lake is a lot more plausible than a scientific explanation sometimes.
In a completely unrelated story, my relatives recently gave me an opinion piece from the Des Moines Register. A reader signed as N. W. Iowa Mystic wrote: “Budgets go astray, schedules get out of kilter, plans fail. Why? They are all graven images and the Second Commandment says, ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.’ Laugh if you will, but that explanation is as good as any.” I had to stop to ponder in what way a budget was a graven image (I likely would not recognize an actual budget if I saw one). Or a schedule, or a plan. Who am I to say that they are not, however? My definition of “graven” may not match yours. I might consider the name of Job’s friends common knowledge, but for others they have fallen into that sinkhole of multiple bits of useless information. I’m not laughing at our mystic friend. I’m pretty certain that the earth has some very deep holes lurking just beneath the surface.