"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

12 March 2011

Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Stories

I'm writing this less than two days after a massive earthquake literally shook and shifted Japan eight feet across the crust of the earth and for a massive tsunami to wash over the land, destroying everything in its path. Homes, offices, buildings, cars, trucks, trains, ships were literally uplifted and pushed miles inland. Cities, towns and villages smashed and drowned and smeared with tons of debris. Human life left in chaos.

The images we have seen beggar belief, the reality of human order rendered senseless: ships, trains, vehicles, houses and buildings tossed about like toys. The ocean racing relentlessly across fertile fields and farmland drowning everything in its path. The aerial views belie the speed at which the tsunami sped across the ground. Racing at over hundred miles per hour, there was no chance of escape.

It seems too soon to even attempt to makes sense of it all; yet, we try. Geologists are brought on tv to explain how the earthquake and tsunami were created. One explains that the very forces within the earth that helped spark life are the same forces that ended it. Another tells us that such quakes are inevitable and to be expected. Still other pundits talk of 'acts of God' and the 'power of Nature'. We're reminded how fragile human life is, clinging as it were, to this thin crust of a dynamic, changing earth. We may think we are 'lords of the dominion', yet such natural calamities reminds us how fragile and tenable is our grasp.

The experiences of people caught up in the disaster also become an important part of its telling. Journalists report on the facts as well as their experiences 'in the field'. Survivors are brought on to share their stories and videos. Words like 'unbelievable', 'incredible', and a whole host of superlatives are used. Yet many still seem traumatised, not quite understanding fully what has happened to them, their loved ones and neighbours. In many instances, words are inadequate. The tellers are rendered speechless.

Yet the fact remains that we need to tell our stories and to encourage others to tell theirs. By sharing them, we can begin the healing. Stories are in integral part of the grieving process. By attempting to make sense of our pain, fear and loss we can better understand and contextualise what has happened.

Even those of us who are living this experience vicariously through the medium of television or internet need to share and re-tell the stories to one another. Facebook and other social digital media enable us to share from one end of our 'global village' to another. Sharing stories with one another reminds us that we are part of a human community, that we need one another to survive.

Yes, natural disasters have happened many times in the past and they will continue long into the future. They can happen anywhere and anytime to anyone. And when the earth shakes in one part of the world, we are all shaken.

But by sharing our stories, by listening compassionately to one another, we can all begin the long journey ahead toward recovery and renewal.

Blessings on our sisters and brothers of Japan.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this.
    I find this so very true:
    "By attempting to make sense of our pain, fear and loss we can better understand and contextualise what has happened."

    It can be difficult after a loss to make sense of our pain, no matter how it begins.
    The stories must be told.



"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

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