Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Elements

You are the land. The land is you.

Merlin Olsen
Is there any human being on this planet who doesn't feel the deep sorrow and compassion for the Japanese people? Oh, I suppose there might be some old fool who says they deserve it after what they did at Pearl Harbor, forgetting they paid for that with two atom bombs. But this disaster is not atom bombs, the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 or the bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces in 1945. This is not war. No, it resembles more the destruction of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79.

In ancient times philosophers defined the elements as earth, air, fire and water. To some extent that categorizing is still true, although modern scientists have discovered and named far more complicated versions of those four elements. But now, in their primordial form, those elements attacked the people of Japan and their land.

The earth shuddered and split apart, shattering buildings, tearing up streets, flinging trains and trucks around, frightening people and killing many. It didn't matter that Japanese people were accustomed to the occasional earth quake. This was something bigger than they ever experienced or expected.

Then came the water, the tsunami, a giant wave charging across the Pacific ocean like an invading army, displaced water seeking its own level, sweeping away all life and evidence of life on the shores of the nation, carrying houses in it's mouth, stirring up the earth, creating mud and havoc. Any one who saw that wave of mud quickly oozing across the land saw something that can only be described as gigantically sinister. Whole communities were struck down and carried miles away.

Up until the time of the quake fire had been tamed and contained in nuclear energy plants serving the people and the land with power to light and heat it. But soon that system was breaking down, the fire was let loose from its safe quarters and transformed into violent explosions. What had been the useful slave of Japanese energy providers soon became their enemy. Raging out of control it damaged some of the nuclear plants and caused the electricity to shut down for thousands of people. Without food, without power to light or heat themselves and with homes destroyed the people spent the long winter night alone and frightened. Many of them did not survive.

Then the last remaining element unaffected by the disaster, air, became the worst enemy of all as radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors began seeping out into the atmosphere. This is an enemy you can't see or smell. There are too many people who may have been affected with radioactive gas but they don't know it, and if they do, they don't know how much. Meanwhile the radiation is still coming, the fires are still burning, the mud is still covering homes and the rubble of broken buildings and broken lives is everywhere.

If you think this is the last great disaster and there will never be another one like this, think again. And if you think God sent this disaster to punish people for their sins you need to find a better God.

This is our planet, our earth, that has been wounded. This is our land. At this moment we are all Japanese. And if you can't go there to help them poke through the ruins, if you can't send money to the Red Cross or some other organization that is there to help, at least, from the heart of your own compassion try to find thoughts of hope.

Dana Bate
Vagabond Journeys


Valerie said...

Yes, at this moment we are all Japanese. Well said. I have been quite amazed watching the calmness and civility of the Japanese culture in the days following this disaster. May God bless them as they rebuild.

Arlene (AJ) said...

Might heart is out to all the people in Japan who are suffering or have lossed their loved ones. At a time like this, we all need to unite and be one, versus saying I'm so and so I'm not one of them. We have a friend who has a son working in Japan and she just heard from him that he's alright. No one, no matter where you are from, who has any heart or compassion could not feel the pain these people are going through and would want to help in any way they could to bring some comfort to the folks in Japan. Bless them all.