It’s relentless, the imagery from Japan. Hard to watch.
Yet watch I do.
I may never be witness to such an event again. Lord knows I hope that’s true.
Here I am in my comfortable home, mint tea steeping on my table, rain pattering the streets below as a cool spring breeze whispers past, my chimes clattering to remind me of it, as if being cooler than comfortable wasn’t the first clue.
Comfortable as I am, I’m left feeling it’s hard to be ignorant of the events over there. I’m compelled to watch, hour after hour. I’m not desensitized, but it affects me differently than most others.
Deep down inside, part of me wishes I had been a foreign correspondent. I wanted to cover disaster relief, that was my thing. Or genocide.
Humans at our best and worst — and how we’re often at our best when the world’s at its worst.
The Mayans might’ve been off a year. It’s looking like end times on that little Pacific archipelago. Nuclear meltdowns, tsunami, 5th largest quake on record, volcano threatening to blow, and even snow falling.
I mean, seriously? It’s so fucking ludicrous that there’s no WAY a writer could’ve submitted this script to a Hollywood production company and had a movie greenlit.
“Come on, buddy. Nobody would ever believe in a 9.0 earthquake followed by the worst tsunami ever followed by nuclear meltdown at not just one but several reactors, while the snow falls, right before the volcano starts to rumble? Word to the wise, curb the drugs when you’re writing. It’s hard to swallow, dude.”
SERIOUSLY, that’s how Hollywood would react. Some C-movie maker would produce it and it’d be a latenight movie on channel 212.
I can’t fathom what the Japanese feel right now. The more we learn, the more jaw-dropping the realisation is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime disaster of epic proportions on THREE levels.
Somehow, some way, I see Japan as overcoming it all. If any country in this world is set to overcome this, it’s Japan.
They’re the only country who has ever been levelled to this extent in the past, and rebuilt. They survived a nuclear winter after an atomic bomb. They can do anything.
That experience clearly profoundly shaped the Japanese people today. When relief agents run out of water supplies, the Japanese aren’t yelling or pleading. There are no stories of looting. There is order and camaraderie wherever I hear reporters speaking.
This is a horrible, horrible moment in time.
Yes. It really is.
But I choose to think of how this can make us better. All of us. We can remember we are nothing in the face of nature. We can rededicate ourselves to each other. We can realise that, like millions in Japan, our lives can be torn apart in 10 minutes or less — so, knowing life’s impermanence, what’s really important, and why?
I watched Thursday at 9:30 pm, as the tsunami made landfall, inching over the land that it’d soon cover as much as 10 kilometres of, inland.
I saw the little cars stopping for stop lights, the tsunami roaring closer in their rearviewmirrors. I sat there with a blanket wrapped around me, wanting to scream at the TV, RUN RUN RUN, DRIVE, GO GO GO!
Today, I’m watching as most found in those cars I was likely watching, in Sendai, the same area I saw the tsunami spreading out over, are being extracted and put into body bags.
It’s hard to think anything amazing can come from that. It’s hard to fathom the technology that makes it possible for me to sit on my sofa watching, with a five-second-delay, as biblical destruction lays waste to a whole countryside. It’s hard to think we’ll be in a position to remember this event one day, celebrating those who survived as we honour the dead.
But that’s what we will do.
As a people, as a world, somehow, to make sense of all this tragedy, we will each find a way to be a little better. To be a little more aware.
Because, if we don’t, then it will indeed have been a horribly senseless tragedy and a low point in civilisation.
And I don’t want to live in that world.
But… if we become better, we love more actively, we live more strategically, we laugh more passionately… if we learn to be more aware of each other, of nature, of time’s passing, of the horrible-yet-beautiful temporal nature of everything…
I can live in that world. I can be a better human being, in that world.
And, Japan, honestly, there’s something about their society and their ethos that really does make them a model society for overcoming this adversity. I would hope, in the insanity unfolding elsewhere in the world, that Japanese ethos and air of resilience is something we all begin striving for.
We here in the West could use some lessons in humility, community, and lawfulness. Perhaps they are to teach us some.
Meanwhile, I’m praying for Japan in my non-secular, non-religious kind of way. I’m watching with a grasp of exactly the magnitude of disaster that is ahead, but also with a longterm vision of what Japan has overcome with incredible success in the past.
And, the thing that I’m sure they’re hanging onto is, this time, they’re not alone.
This time, we didn’t do it to them, it was nature, and we’re all horrified at the unfairness of her wrath.
But the world is showing support, people are reaching out to her. Japan will rise again.