As it churned toward us, Hurricane Sandy drove home the truth that an endless election cycle and a period of horrendous crimes have hinted at: This is the Information Age, but information isn't always power. We don't have much more control over the large, looming events in our lives today than we would have had 100 or 1,000 years ago.
And it's control we seek. We huddle over our smartphones and tablets and PCs and desktop computers, watching the television out of the corner of our eye, scanning the headlines of the newspapers.
A police officer is killed helping an accident victim. Another officer is murdered, allegedly by an ex-con with a gun, as is a civilian who pulled over to take a phone call from his daughter. Another cop is accused of planning to kill, cook and eat women. A beloved nanny is accused of killing two children in her charge.
If we read every word and look at every picture about the violence and death springing up like a plague, perhaps we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
A hurricane, especially one that could have major consequences for the entire East Coast and one-third of the nation's population, is the greatest media event of them all. Where did it hit? At what time? How strong was it? How long will it keep us in its grasp? If we stay tuned and find out, we hope that knowledge will keep us safe.
But knowledge, while better by far than ignorance, isn't power. The most enormous power is a storm bearing down on our loved ones, on the property and business at the center of our lives. But no amount of obsessing over this storm, over the raw force of nature, will grant us control over it.
Look out the window. Listen to the wind whipping through the trees, watch the rain driving down, and fear the water rising on our shores.
That's power. And it's not ours.