‘Tornado Man’ Understands Life Is Just Mowing the Lawn, Then We Die

Let us give thanks to local hero Theunis Wessels for his subtle middle-finger to nature.

by Drew Brown
Jun 5 2017, 3:54pm

Тьюнис Уэсселс на фоне кружащегося торнадо. (Сесилия Уэсселс/The Canadian Press, взято у AP)

What is the meaning of a human life? There is no easy answer. Of all the animals on earth, none comes into the world as abjectly helpless as a newborn child and none goes out of it with such defiance of its end. In between those moving posts are many peaks and valleys.

But truth be told, most of life is the flat tedium of mowing the lawn. Wars will come and go, Ozymandias will sink into the sands, hearts will break and heal from Genesis to Revelation, and in between all this food is prepared and clothes washed and bills paid and grass cut. Come what may, the blessed, blunting drudgery of life goes on. Even when there's a tornado outside your house.

It's fitting that this is a scene from Alberta, the "Last Best West," the bleeding edge of man's mad attempt to tame and gut the earth. The West is the land of the living skies, which is less a poetic flourish than a statement of fact to anyone who knows the crack and roll of Prairie thunder. The sky is alive. Oblivious to everything outside itself, the clouds twisted up in a tourniquet, a grimace of wind and water and dirt. It is a wonder of atmospheric alchemy that a gentle breeze can turn and flatten a town.

Full view of Theunis Wessels mowing his lawn without concerns. (Cecilia Wessels/The Canadian Press via AP)

Nature speaks a language for those with ears to hear, and our hero Theunis Wessels surely has perfect pitch. The lawn in his backyard is oblivious to the screech of the twister and so too is the groundskeeper. "Calm, in control," Wessels saunters out into the maelstrom to coolly cut the grass, a living monument to the bourgeois masculinity presiding over the end of the world, stoically managing his property as the very air he breathes rages against him.

These are the two solitudes of life in 2017. The storm is on the horizon. Violent madness reigns beyond the walls of the small slice of life you've carved out for yourself. We are born into a dying body in a dying world. In the wake of faceless and monstrously systematic chaos, best to cultivate your own garden and let the rest go on their way.

But a storm on the horizon has already arrived on someone else's doorstep. Ice is breaking off into the Antarctic ocean and ICE is breaking apart young families. Armchair Kremlinologists trace Twitter typos through the ether while the poor nod off their mortal coil en masse. The blood-dimmed tide that has rolled out over the Mediterranean for the last two hundred years is now washing back across the old neurotic empires of Europe. Never has the omnipotent power of human civilization seemed closer to completely coming apart at the seams.

But keep calm, carry on; what else can you do? Life must be lived and grass must be cut and the rolling stone gathers no moss. The heart can only bleed so much before it turns to stone. This is the cold comfort of Reason: perish if you must, my friends, for I am safe and sound. Always better the storm outside than the one inside your soul.

Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.