I spent the weekend trying to write a new post for this blog. My plan was to kick off a new series about the creative process, starting on the topic of inspiration. Although I’d riffed on the subject in my journal for a week or more, when I sat down to write this weekend, I couldn’t seem to get there. All my thoughts were on Japan. As I read the news stories and watched the horrifying video clips, I knew that anything I had to say on the creative process was trivial in light of such catastrophe.
Although paralysis, mine or anyone else’s, ultimately does nothing for the Japanese people, it feels right to take pause from the ordinary and give my full attention to the suffering of our global brothers and sisters. If I have learned anything during my time on this planet, it is that we are all connected. Our pain, our struggles, our victories and our love are all one. Day to day life and concerns may cause us to forget this, but it’s true. As the Ponca Indian Chief Standing Bear said: “The blood that will flow from mine will be the same as yours. I am a man. God made us both.”
Just recently, my youngest son and I had a conversation about September 11. He was just short of his fourth birthday when it happened and doesn’t remember anything. He asked me what it was like after 9-11. I told him that at first, everyone walked around in a state of shock. It was such an enormous and horrific event that it took a few days for most of us to get our minds around what happened, even though we’d seen it played out on the cable news. After the shock, I recalled, there was a sense of gentleness. People were kind to each other. Strangers made eye contact as they passed on the sidewalk. Shoppers struck up conversations with each other while standing in line in the grocery store. People were patient and courteous. All the usual pettiness and bullshit fell away. And in our anguished state, we the people got right to what really matters: compassion and love. It was the most palpable sense of unity that I have ever felt in the United States. On a much more personal level, I had that very same experience after the death of my son. Everything that I’d thought was important- disagreements, goals, struggles, aspirations- didn’t matter anymore. The only thing that mattered was love, and I knew this on a deep, visceral level like I’d never known anything before. I was completely crumbled yet wide open. And I could feel the suffering of others as if it were my own. This is the grace of our humanity.
The images coming out of Japan are wrenching. There is so much devastation and despair. And the situation is still so very fluid, especially in regards to the thousands of people still missing and, of course, the potential meltdown of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Yet in the midst of the chaos, the Japanese people remain dignified and strong. Although food and water are scarce, there is no looting or mayhem. People are cooperating, sharing and organizing themselves. In nearly apocalyptic circumstances, these beautiful people are treating each other with compassion. As my sister pointed out, it was only 66 years ago that the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese people have survived the unspeakable once before. They will, undoubtedly, do so again.
Although the disaster in Japan seems overwhelming, we are not powerless. We can help. Of course, there are a number of relief organizations that we can donate money to. I’ve included a few links below. On a simpler note, we can hold space for the Japanese people in our daily meditations. We can say prayers for their strength and healing. We can chant mantras for peace. If nothing else, we can let this serve as a wake-up call and a reminder as to those things that are most important. Love, compassion and grace are available to us every second of every day. We can lift that veil at any time and respond accordingly, right here, right now.
American Red Cross