What can you say in the face of such abrupt destruction and incomprehensible suffering? Everything feels trite and obvious, too repetitive. Perhaps, however, it is the repetition of our shocked sadness, our shared grief spoken aloud around the globe, that is important. If we don’t repeat it, if the size of the trauma seems too large to put words around, or if we assume everyone is feeling the same sorrow so we can just skip the articulation of it, then maybe we miss the simple support we can feel – and give – in sharing it.
It is all too easy, I find, to say, “How sad that this is happening to them.” It’s always “them,” or has been in my fortunate experience. After the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the pictures of the destruction seemed like apocalypse images cooked up in Hollywood, too terrible to be real – and now the images of the affected areas are equally dramatic. But there is one big difference – Japan’s smoldering nuclear reactors mean suddenly the threat to “their” safety is linked to “my” safety.
No one knows what a nuclear meltdown at the edge of the Pacific Ocean would mean for the well being of the entire globe in terms of atmospheric radiation or a potential economic disaster that could precipitate similarly far-reaching consequences. While people talk about the world being one big family, the recognition of that fact is not usually so pervasive as it is now, when a threat on one side of the planet has implications for all of us. Suddenly none of us is safe – or rather, suddenly we can feel our absolute interdependence.
Over the past few months here, I’ve been considering the positive and negative influences of the internet in my life, as you know. This week, I admit that I’ve actually been grateful for my limited exposure to media and for the ability to choose when I want to expose myself to more images and news. I am embarrassed to say this, considering the unrelenting suffering of so many right now. I have the luxury of choosing not to log on and instead to focus on other things, and then brace myself for an update.
Mostly, though, I’ve been grateful this week for the internet’s up-to-date information, quelling my own questions and fears. The internet is an indisputable blessing for that purpose. It also provides real faces and stories to send my prayers to, giving me heart-wrenching compassion for our brothers and sisters in Japan.
I’ve also been facing the fact that my access to the internet – and thus to communication with so many people I love – is very fragile. It could easily go down (as it does on daily basis here) in a more permanent way in a crisis. So I’ve been feeling how far I am physically from my home. Today I am very grateful for the ability to Skype with my family, to see my niece Koruna eating breakfast in Texas, to say once again, “I love you.” I guess in the face of abrupt destruction and incomprehensible suffering, that’s about the best thing I’ve figured out to say.
“May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.”