Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Have You Felt It?

Have you felt it - the global shudder?  Are you, like me, feeling just a little off balance, a little off-kilter, like the axis of your world has suddenly shifted?  I cannot seem to shake the malaise, as if a permanent fault line in my thinking has been unearthed since the events of last Friday.  I thought I could count on the ground always being there to meet my feet.  I thought the air I breathed would always bring vitality. Despite centuries of evidence to the contrary, I somehow trusted Mother Earth to be a place of succor not a place of  terror. 

But Mother Earth has become moody and mercurial.  Perhaps she is justifiably reacting to the way we have abused her.  Why do I insist on personifying Earth?  I heard someone in desperation and compassion suggest we beseech Mother Earth to take care of the people swept away, homeless, terrorized, radiated, shuddering down to their core.  Does it not seem ironic that we look to the very thing that has traumatized us to then safeguard and heal us?  It seems our needs, illusions and delusions are strong.  We need to believe there is someone, something out there that we can rely on, turn to, trust.  And so we personify the universal elements around us, - conferring on them human sensibilities - hoping they might care and intervene.

I feel off balance because my hidden illusions have been swept away by these vivid, harsh realities.  The universe, the earth, life itself does not care about my length of days, my creature comforts, my search for meaning, my dreams, my accomplishments, my constructions, my security.  I, you, we are confronted by stark proof that ultimately we are inconsequential, insignificant, not special, and not exempt.  The universe does not seem to intervene for any of us on a personal basis.  How many prayers were uttered as lives were arbitrarily swept away?  And yet we persist in hoping to be plucked from the yawning jaws of danger.

So...have you felt it?  The creeping, ubiquitous, global depression resulting from a such a close encounter with  powerlessness and helplessness?  It seems we are all quaking with fear - inundated by doubts - leaking confidence - exposed and reacting to the brutal realities the catastrophe in Japan is forcing us to face.  As so many struggle to survive, they find the only respite lies in service, in sharing, in sacrifice, in the human qualities of love and compassion.  That is all we really have to offer ... and it is everything.

Life does not seem to care whether any one of us persists, but life does care about life.  And so with each breath it seems all we can do is care about life and do what we can to serve life.  We are not here to be made comfortable.  Life is given with no promises.  While we have the mysterious gift of life, we are called upon to make sure life in all its forms continues - to serve life itself.  As I face the harsh realities I see in Japan's horrifying predicament, I find my only consolation is in knowing that while I have breath I can - I will - serve life.

(I apologize for the stark tone of this post.  I know the unstated norm here is to be upbeat and positive - but not today - not at the expense of truth.  These feelings of helplessness are pervasive and I have been noticing them in every person with whom I interact.  I hope you will feel free to express yourself on this issue in the comment section.  I would love to be shown the fault-line in my thinking.)


  1. I watch the news clips of the happenings in Japan in horror. They are so unbelievable - they look like a movie - a special effects movie. My heart goes out to the people of Japan. How will they ever recover from all this? I feel guilt in going about my every day life, not feeling the repercussions.....yet.

  2. I wish there was a fault line in your thinking but I think it's spot on. It grips all of us at the core. I do feel it.

  3. Actually, Bonnie, I don't find the tone of your post to be stark. It is the nature of the earth, and of the systems on it, that is stark. As you've said very well here, we are realizing the nature of our fragility through these events. It really is sobering to know that the same Nature that we turn to for solace and uplift, can bring such devastation.

    I have wondered why we feel as we do especially now. Is it the cumulative effect of Katrina, Haiti, the Middle East uprisings, the earthquakes in NZ and Japan? (No doubt I'm leaving something out, there has been so much.) Is it seeing a country as high tech and developed as Japan be susceptible, and we see ourselves in that?

    I keep hearing the mantra of an old hymn in my head: It is Well with My Soul. I'm researching it for a possible post. The man who wrote it certainly had a lot of turmoil and loss in his life. Can we say "All is Well" as my spiritual teacher taught me to say, and believe it?

  4. Wow, I couldn't really add to that. You are spot on, I am afraid.
    We are inconsequential. Mere specks in the universe, and yes, all that really matters is how much we love ....ourselves, and one another.
    Great post.

  5. Pat: It is horrifying - and unbelievably it just keeps getting worse.

  6. Ruth: I think you are right - that we are feeling the cumulative effects of so many disasters. And I could not agree more, that one place where we do have power is our inner terrain. Can we find that peaceful place within where all is well, regardless of what befalls us or the planet? We can. Frankl is one who provides much evidence for that.

  7. Hilary: Yes, well put - let's concentrate on that - 'how much we love' and how well we serve. Those who are well-loved and appreciated now, may well be the ones who can find a place of acceptance and grace within when all hell breaks loose - in whatever form.

  8. I've been feeling this way really since 9/11/01.

    It's taken me time (years), but I've come to have some peace about the direction of the human enterprise, in all its glory, squalor, creativity, and destructiveness.

    It is what it is. Like 99.99% of all species, human beings will become extinct. We may well distinguish ourselves by being the agent of our own extinction.

    We humans seem amazingly heedless, especially towards the health of the living web of life upon which we depend, of which we are part.

    We seem more interested in gizmos and novelty. The planet we wish to save doesn't need saving. It will be okay. I'm not so sure that human "civilization" (as we know it) will be okay, though, 100 years from now.

    All that said, I am sure that the way forward requires us to be humble, open minded, mindful, loving, tender, compassionate, and optimistic despite what seem the facts may seem to be.

  9. Bonnie: Only one who is as close to this earth, with their ear next to the ground, quiet and attentive, can write a comment like this. It is good to be here again. EFH

  10. You have give voice to the feeling of utter helplessness I - and so many others - are experiencing, and for that I am so grateful.

    As I go though my day, I think of the thousands of people who can't do the simple things I am doing - cleaning, eating, working, taking my child to school. They can't and really won't be able to do those basic routines for a long while.

    I find myself searching for hope, for a sign that we as a world can come back from this. And I found the beginning of it here, in this post.

    Hopeful because of your pledge to serve life. I will too. I pledge with all that I am, to serve life. And what if the the people of the world learned that? What if we all can join together and live that out, what a change that could be in the world.

    Can we hope that this tragedy will lead the world to some positive change? Can we be, as Dan beautifully commented "humble, open minded, mindful, loving, tender, compassionate, and optimistic despite what seem the facts may seem to be." We can try.

  11. no you nailed it bonnie...the shaking...the depression running through...the world need hope and healing now more than ever...

    that first pic looks like a fractal...very nice...

  12. Expat!!! Welcome, welcome. I really missed your blog posts and your comments here.

    I know you lived in Japan for a time ... this catastrophe must be especially hard for you to see and absorb.

    Have to say my spirits are lifted by your return.

  13. Marion: I am touched by what you share and your summary of what you have read here. If, like you, we could all make a pledge to serve all that lives, while we live, while it lives ... the planet and all that exists upon it might breathe a collective sigh of relief.

  14. Hey Brian: We need to hold our loved ones close and appreciate every sweet, simple moment.

    The first image is a leaf partially in shadow - that I have monkeyed around with in photoshop. I like how it is dark, mysterious and moody ... and still light can shine through.

  15. I appreciate what Dan wrote. I agree that the planet will be fine and can restore itself, no matter what we do to abuse it. The human race on the other hand, may not survive, because of our own doing.

    Love. Light. Life. Liebe. Leicht. Leben.

  16. and now the next disaster unfolds and it is a manmade disaster. Japan is being radiated.I can barely stand it.

  17. Sandra: It does seem unbearable ... but we must try to be strong and take care of our little corner of the world and the precious life we find in it.

    Hang on. Hope you are feeling better.

  18. There are no words for the horror of Tokyo, Katrina, Haiti... Life changes in a flash. This was a natural happening--a violent shifting of the earth's tectonic plates, a violent adjustment of a human population. I'm afraid that's the way of it. I'm positive all of us should be grateful for each day without incident--and support the Japanese recovery with a donation. I sent the American Red Cross for the Japanese tsunami, earthquake recovery a check. They need all the cash they can lay their hands. Clothing would be good too. Action is needed. Words of sympathy and condolence best said after the survivors are more comfortable.

  19. I see the images on the news, and all I want to do is get on a plane and go there and help in the search for survivors. There are still thousands of people missing, some of whom are likely still alive and trapped somewhere beneath the rubble, and it's incredibly frustrating to me knowing that I can't do a damn thing about it.

    Where there is life, there is hope. But time is running out for those still in need of rescue.

  20. No fault-line, Bonnie, just the truth about life and how quickly it reminds us that we are not in control. We are here as guests, and part of that I believe, is to help others and to honor the life we do have and the wonderful planet we get to live on.

    You always say what my heart feels and I'm grateful for your gift of thought and words during this sad time. Mother Earth will be fine, and so will we.

  21. Such is synchronocity as it is the way so many of us are feeling - I blogged on much the same lines as you recently. The Earth has indeed shifted on its axis and perhaps it is time we humans did the same and looked at everything, each other and the Earth in a brand new (moral) way. Bless you.

  22. Bonnie,
    I don't think this is a stark post at all. Or if so, only in the way that it is very honest that indeed, there is life and there is not-life and we are subject to both. We humans love to think we're special, count the ways we're different from the rest of existence - except we're as much the cat who kills as we are the mouse who dies, the cat which starves, the mouse which breeds.

    This week, scenarios played in my mind and I constantly caught myself assuming my own survival. Funny, that.

    Actually, I found this post beautiful. Poetic, honest, heartfelt. It's a relief to hear/read it here, instead of some attempt at maintaining a happy face.

    A hug to you.

  23. L.W. Yes, so much better to act rather than simply lament.

  24. Jeff: Yes unbelievably a week has already passed. It must be recovery more than rescue now. It must be frustrating to be a trained rescuer, as you are, and not be able to get there to offer your skills.

  25. Gwynnie: Thank you so much. You name a good way to think of ourselves during our sojourn on this little planet - guests. Responsible, caring guests.

  26. Cait: Yes, I visited your blog today and was buoyed by your post which included thoughts from John O'Donohue. Thank you so much.

  27. neighbor: Your comments mean a lot to me. Thank you. It is true that we walk around assuming our own survival - perhaps that in itself is a primitive survival strategy.

    Everyone: I am so grateful for all I learn and the way my perspective is opened by all the thought-full comments left here. THANK YOU ALL!

  28. I suppose it's not the destructive natural and human events in themselves - life on earth has always been thus and always will be. What's crucial is how we deal we them, in ourselves and in the world. Empathy - which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, even sometimes to nihilism, is normal, natural - and good. I think the feeling of powerlessness is one of the worst things. There is a desire to do what we can to help and be of service - even in small ways. All this is easy to say, as usual, but not so easy to put into practice.

    I think Dan said it well.

  29. I feel for those families, lost loved ones, the horror of seeing life literally swept away. But I don't blame nature. Who do we think we are that we can control nature? We insist on living in New Orleans, even though it is below sea level. japan knows these tsunamis will come, the question is when. Do we think our buildings can truly stand if a devastating earthquake is underfoot? That nuclear plants will never leak? I think the true question is, why do we think we are indestructible? We build on the edge of cliffs in California and then are surprised when they are destroyed in a land slide. What are we thinking that we can deflect Mother Nature each and every time?

    I have been impressed and amazed at the peacefulness and honesty of the Japanese. No rioting and looting? America used to be like that?

  30. Your stark tone is in fact reality. You say it very well and I have been feeling like this for a couple years. Congrats on the POTW.

  31. Oh, Dan, I've said that forever. I think humans will be the least successful life form this planet has ever produced in terms of longevity, our span of existence, for all the reasons you state and probably more.

    as for the recent tragedy in Japan, it is terrible for them, yes, but it is only the latest of such tragedies that happen all over the world. not just people were affected. all the life forms were swept away and yet our compassion seems to be limited to our own kind. would we consider it a tragedy if the event happened where no people lived?

    we live on fault lines, on coastlines subject to terrible storms, at the feet of volcanos, in floodplains. we thumb our noses at nature thinking that we control our environment. what do we think is going to happen? that we should be exempt? we can change our environment but we cannot control it.

    I know we tend to think we are the end all and be all of creation, I imagine every life form thinks it is the center of the universe, but we are only a speck, collectively a mote in the eye of god/dess.

    this planet that nurtures us and destroys us, is a living entity that grows, stretches, shakes and shudders and is as oblivious to us as we are to the small life forms that inhabit our own bodies.

    but this does not make me feel depressed, disillusioned, unstable. neither do I feel powerless or helpless. well, I know that I am powerless against the forces of nature. perhaps that is why I am not consumed with negative feelings. all I can do is to try to live with compassion, with hope, with love; help where and when I can, nurture instead of destroy.

  32. I have hope...I always have hope that we can learn to work together to bring about change in how we view and use our planet. I feel sadness for the people of Japan. This is one huge disaster and one they won't recover from quickly. Then there is Haiti, still waiting for help...they have hope. Japan has hope...Libya has hope!! Sometimes that is all we have!!!
    Congrats on your POTW award

  33. What a great post. It's easy to see why Hilary has chosen to highlight this as a POTW. Congratulations on that.

    I must say that I agree with The Solitary Walker. It's how we deal with these events that counts. And Margaret is right, too. We can't totally blame Mother Earth when we test her limits without regard to the consequences. But we can't give up hope, either. It's what binds us together all over the world.

  34. thank you for reaching out
    taking my hand
    making it OK
    I'm not alone

    Aloha to you
    from Waikiki!

    Comfort Spiral



  35. Sorry, no fault lines in your thinking.

    I stopped by from Hilary's, just to say congratulations for POTW (last week - I am soooo behind on everything) but you have blown me away. I had to read your post...and all the comments twice.

    I have just deleted a NOVEL. Deleted it because it was really just repeating what you had already so eloquently expressed. Bottom line - I agree wholeheartedly with you.

    But there are so many who do not feel the change. There are so many, even my best friends among them, who shook their heads at the Japanese tragedy...and went back to their jokes and American Idol and Desperate Housewives.

    Or maybe that's just a release; maybe that's the way we cope with disaster.

    But no, there are those among us, the majority in fact in my world, who do not see life this way. "...we are confronted by stark proof that ultimately we are inconsequential, insignificant, not special, and not exempt." Not in my neck of the woods. I have actually heard first hand (and on that horrendous TamTamPamela video) that this is God's way of warning Japan...of Haiti...New Orleans. These people who utter such nonsense (sorry, I can get a little carried away here) believe they ARE immune...they ARE special...they ARE exempt. And nothing will ever shake that.

    Faith is a powerful tool. Soothing. Frightening.

    I need to stop. I went off in a direction I shouldn't have and I can feel the earth starting to tremble...


Comments are always read and appreciated.

(I am grateful for all awards received. However, I ask that this be an "award-free zone" and meme-free zone. Thanks for understanding!)