Friday, March 11, 2011

dwarfed by disaster

The largest recorded earthquake to hit Japan struck today with a magnitude of 8.9, according to the BBC. Aerial film footage of the resulting 24-foot tsunami defies comprehension as boats, buildings, highways, and presumably people are engulfed. A tsunami warning extended all the way to the west coast of the United States, Canada and South America.

The word "dwarfed" springs to mind. Not only are people and property dwarfed, but other news events, other human activities, seem to recede into the shadows of the mind. The recent earthquake in New Zealand, the upheavals in the Middle East, the Machiavellian manipulations of a Wisconsin governor intent on gutting the bargaining rights of public sector employees, and the pope's fatuous suggestion that "no war can be waged in God's name" ... all take on a diminished stature.

Besides the freshness that the latest disaster can bring to a mind addicted to freshness -- the "oy vey!" and "oh boy!" of things -- there is something to be said for examining the addiction and something to be said for the freshness itself. Perhaps some forgiveness can be tendered to the addict -- every moment is, after all, perfectly fresh, so getting hooked on it may be understandable or human or something similar. But addictions require another shot, another pill, another excitement if the sense of freshness is to be maintained. If one's good, two's better. And without that renewed fix, the sense of freshness is lost and things become "booooring!"

But whether bored or not, whether addicted or not, the freshness asserts itself over and over and over again. Every moment is new, even if the self-helpers say so. What are the implications of that? Is it simply to increase the dosage of an excited and ersatz freshness? Or does it suggest that the honest freshness of life deserves an actualization beyond oy-vey or oh-boy? Freshness does not require "me." Freshness is just fresh, so taking a look at this oy-vey-oh-boy me is probably in order if anyone wants to enjoy the inescapable -- rather than concocted -- freshness... the kind of freshness that does not require my tears or laughter.

Who is it who might be dwarfed? Who is it who might feel sadness welling up on behalf of those stricken by an implacable tsunami? Who is this fresh one?

I don't know, but I think it's worth considering.

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