Saturday, March 12, 2011


I’ve been watching film clips of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.  From high in the air it’s like watching a rainstorm runoff overcome an anthill.  We are so influenced by perspective that physical distance equates to emotional distance.  But then the reality of those objects floating inland begins to register in the mind.  They are ships, warehouses, large transport trucks, houses and the broken beams of great buildings floating like sticks over airports, residences and fields of growing crops.  I watch this safely from the other side of the world.  But we are all connected.  I’m watching this disaster unfold on YouTube with my Toshiba laptop.  I drive a Japanese car and the big screen Sony TV is an important part of our household.  Japan is actually very near.  The global village is a reality that most of us haven’t yet got our heads around.

We can squash a bug easily because it is so small and thus emotionally distant. We are calibrated emotionally relative to physical size.  Are we like insects when viewed from 1,000 feet in the air?  On the other side of this ball in space, very, very tiny on the cosmic scale, huge traumatic changes have overcome many of our fellow humans and the many creatures that share their island.  We humans create a world within our larger world that seems so real and solid that we are shocked when it is destroyed in the blink of an eye. I’m reflecting on what it will feel like when the coast of California is suddenly obliterated.  Everyone knows this is on Mother Earth’s schedule but because we don’t know the date we can live in slightly edgy denial until it actually occurs.

Science and history tell us that our planet is in constant change but our small life span deceives us emotionally.  Most of us can remember a time as children when our world seemed stable.  I was born during World War II.  The world was involved in a cataclysm even though one instigated by humans.  But are we not part of the natural world also?  Perhaps some of our problems are brought about by the perception of ourselves as outside of the natural world observing it from a deceptively safe place.  It is a form of denial. Our cataclysms ripple out much like a tsunami to envelop the planet in ways we may not comprehend during the obvious events.  My family was in turmoil at this time.  Of course I didn’t know it then.  Life was just so and I had nothing to compare it with.

My father worked on a naval shipyard repairing ships wounded by the Japanese.  My mother had one brother in the army and another in the navy.  We were lucky because they returned physically unharmed but I know now that there were wounds that didn’t show.  I can see in hindsight that our family never lost the imprint of the war.  I can only imagine how it affected those who were literally in the line of fire. Even though I was a toddler I remember my nightmares from this time.  I saw earthquakes with cracks opening up to swallow those who were standing nearby.  Buildings and cars were aflame and people were running, screaming and collapsing in fear. We lived near San Francisco at the time and yet no one had mentioned the San Andreas Fault or even the history of earthquakes in the area.  The war consumed everyone’s attention. I had visions and fears in the daytime as well.  I was afraid to go outside sometimes because I believed a huge bird would come and snatch me.  At other times I feared railroad tracks and trains because I thought they would run off their tracks and come rampaging into homes and shops. A menacing animal, perhaps a bear, would come into my room at night. I could see its dark outline moving around the room. No one listened to these fears, they had too many “real” problems to deal with, but in retrospect I can see that my child mind processed the world events on another track.

How can it be that our viewpoint is so narcissistic and the reality so global and increasingly cosmic.  Human evolution lags far behind the reality we exist within.  We see this world through our human eyes and measure it by our physical size and life span.  Japan will recover, though with lingering scars, because the creatures of this planet are also remarkably resilient.  Ultimately we change to fit the environment we occupy but it hasn’t yet penetrated us that we are co-creators of the world we live in, and this life extends far beyond the physical body and a specific location.  Events beyond our control are great and terrible teachers.

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