From outsized events, we often attempt to draw outsized lessons, as if we have to match the scale of a storm or a flood or an earthquake with what we take away from them, as if suffering must always generate a commensurate wisdom.

Sometimes, of course, it does. We learned large, valuable lessons from 9/11 and Katrina, for instance, while the countries around the Indian Ocean have done the same from the 2004 tsunami, and the Chinese are still learning (however slowly) from the devastating Sichuan earthquakes of 2008. From national security to social solidarity, and from the nature and purpose of government to the natural interconnectedness of all the world's nations, these events called for big thinking on major issues, leading to significant change.

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