The amazing thing was how quickly it happened. Within minutes, hundreds of millions of light bulbs, air conditioners, microwave ovens, computers, refrigerators, phone systems, traffic lights, cash registers, subway cars and blow-dryers died. Ceased. Stopped. Just like that.

Actually, it didn't take any time at all to happen. Because nothing happened. Rather, it stopped happening. The flow of electricity, which modern life had grown so dependent upon, stopped flowing. The delicate equilibrium of ebb and flow which enables the transmission of the electric energy from one geographical point to another was somehow disrupted, and thousands of cities went dark, one by one.

Luminance, movement and artificial thought do not come naturally to the light bulb, subway car and computer. Essentially, these are just variously shaped and joined pieces of plastic, metal and glass. It's only that they've been ingeniously designed and constructed in such a way that a current of electricity passing through them makes then perform a variety of complex — and very useful — tasks. But even as they perform these tasks, they remain dark, dumb and immobile bits of matter. They're not really acting — they're being acted upon by the current of energy that's "enlivening" them. The moment this external acting force ceases to act, these objects will simply revert to their natural state. The subway car becomes a waiting room and the computer becomes a desk ornament.

When the juice stopped flowing in the cities of the Northeast, we weren't just set back 150 years. A century-and-a-half ago we got along just fine without electrical appliances. In 2003, we had to learn all over again to accept the temperature of the atmosphere on a summer evening, make do with more humble sources of light, use our own two feet as a means of transportation, and do our computing with a naked human mind, aided, at most, with pencil and paper.

But imagine that life itself ran on electricity. That the engine of our heart, the RAM and ROM of our brain, the force fields that pull together countless billions of cells, atoms and quarks into a "body", the surges of will and desire that form the core of our "self" — were all wired to one huge "power station". Imagine that we lived with the awareness that, in every instant of time, we were utterly dependant upon this outside power source for existence and life. That our existence and life were not inherent qualities that we somehow "possess", but are acted upon us by that external energy source, and that the moment that source should cease to so act, we would simply cease.

That, in fact, is how the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), describes the entirety of creation. All of existence, explains Rabbi Schneur Zalman, was created by G‑d ex nihilo ("something from nothing"). Since "something from nothing" is an absolute impossibility, this means that the essential nature of our existence remains "nothing"; our somethingness is a quality that must be constantly imposed upon us by an outside force that is beyond both "something" and "nothing" (for indeed He created both notions) and can thus manipulate them both, imposing the one upon the other.

G‑d's creation of the world, therefore, was not a one-time act. G‑d constantly "speaks" the world into being, exactly as He did the very first time He uttered "Let there be..." "If the letters," writes Rabbi Schneur Zalman, "of the Ten Utterances by which the earth was created during the Six Days of Creation were to depart from it for an instant, G‑d forbid, it would revert to naught and absolute nothingness, exactly as before the Six Days of Creation" (Tanya, part II, ch. 1).

A frightening thought? I don't think so. In fact, the more I think about it, the more encouraging it is. What this basically means is that every nanosecond of time G‑d looks upon our world, contemplates all the good and evil, kindness and cruelty, triumphs and failings, imperfections and strivings that goes on in it, and makes a conscious decision to grant it existence and life. It's as if you would ask the Creator, a billion times a second, "Seeing what's become of it, would you do it all over again?" and G‑d says, "Yes, I would, exactly as it is" — and does it.

If G‑d sees something worthwhile there, I'm assuming that we, too, can.