Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan

A number of years ago I went on a media fast. I realized that a constant tap into world events was leaving me hopeless and helpless feeling - neither of which I felt workable. Of course, I do hear what is going on in the world but perhaps not as soon as some do. Instead of listening to the radio on the way into work, I listen to an audio book that I get from the library. I don't read a daily paper but usually pickup the Saturday Globe & Mail and read it cover to cover after I get back from the market. We get very sketchy television service here beside our cliff - a blurry black & white CBC, occasional CTV - which is frustrating when it is time to watch the Oscars or the Olympics or other things starting with O but generally that is the way we want it. I know if we got cable that I'd watch far too many home decorating shows and that isn't something needed in my life.

All this to say that it took me half a day to find out about the disaster in Japan and it took me until last night to watch any major coverage of it (and that on my computer through BBC). This morning the news has arrived in my heart. Initially my biggest concern was Mari, my blogging friend from Norway who is in Tokyo with the Norweigan embassy. Once she had posted and I knew she was good I didn't let the rest in. But as I said, this morning it is there - a range of images of the terrific force of that water swallowing up civilization's toys with a gulp - the cars bobbing like a silly game down streets and over walls, boats dipping over breakwaters to fold up and break apart under bridges - the voracious maw of nature taking back what it wants.

And what is a solitary person to do? What is a folk who has work to go to and obligations to meet or avoid, who lives by the sea in her solid permanent-feeling home to do? I will take this opportunity to include the victims in my meditation practice. I will contemplate the preciousness of human birth and remember that it is impermanent - empty and luminous. I will notice each and every beauty as if a great rushing water is coming at me - because, of course, it is.

In my writing life, I will remember that we are all torn open by the truth of life and death, that not even the most cynical of cynics or naive of naifs can avoid what opera makes its main material. That we are born, we get old, we sicken, we die. That we may along that path love and create or hate and destroy but ultimately that is the path. And that is not suffering. Suffering is believing that we can notice the way the sunlight silvers the birch another day because there are endless ones. Suffering is thinking that those oceans of humans swept away into death are not our brothers and sisters, mothers and dads, friends and neighbors.

One of the lojong slogans that shape my days is
11. When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of bodhi.
This means, as I understand it, that whatever happens environmentally, politically, emotionally, needs to be part of what wakes you up. It also means that I need to stop entertaining feelings of being inadequate to the situation - hiding with my poverty mentality. I can do what I can do. I can appreciate my precious human birth because those swept away cannot at this time do that. I can do tonglen practice for those suffering, both living and recently dead, to take in their suffering and send out some peace to them. I can remember, as a writer, why I chose to write - what my purpose is.

One of the videos on the disaster that I watched last night was about a man searching for his wife in a large school where victims of the tsunami gathered. He met a neighbor who said she hadn't seen his wife and hadn't asked about her and she was so sorry. They bowed and he went down the long staircase to the basement to continue his search. And I thought this is Orpheus, this is Paris, this is Haemon, this is Romeo, this is The English Patient, this is the story that is told and told and told...

The beauty outside my window is shattering.

18 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What a beautiful post! The disaster in Japan is so shattering that it's very easy to get caught up in our feelings of inadequacy. Thanks for helping us see it in a different way...

Mary Vaughn said...

Only the time changes. The stories remain the same.

Joanne said...

Such a sad, sad story, that ultimately sharpens our feelings on so many levels. Even to the beauty around us.

Dorte H said...

Jan, I looked for your blog and found a whole bunch.

Is this where I should look for news about writing & about your mysteries?

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Beautiful. Thank you for saying it.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

You've created a beautifully thoughtful post about a horrifying occurrence. Well done, Jan and thank you for taking the time to write it.

Ann said...

Beautifully expressed Jan. I too have felt weighed down by the recent events. Such heart ache and grief. It is too much to let in.

Robyn said...

Thank you for pointing me to this, Jan. You have said everything.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Beautifully put. The tragedy in Japan is on such a scale that I haven't known how to begin to absorb it. Thanks for your thoughts on approaching it.

Jan Morrison said...

Hello all dear readers! thank you for your kind comments. And thank you to you new readers - I so appreciate you coming by.
Dorte - yes, this is my blog on writing though as you can see I do go off on tangents from time to time. My blog - Living the Complicated Simple Life is just that - about knitting and gardening and chickens etc... I have a blog about Rumi's poems but that is more for me than anyone else (!). I also share a blog with some wonderful folks at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash and it is mainly on writing and reading...

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Jan, I think we have to keep seeking the beauty around us or we’d all go crazy. This was a beautifully written piece.

Liza said...

This touched me in my soul.

Jan Morrison said...

Jane and Liza - thank you for your kind thoughts.

Patti Blaine said...

Coming to you via the inimitable Robyn Love. Thank you, Jan. So terribly beautifully articulated.

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Patti - and isn't Robyn the best?!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Ugh, I don't think this disaster has fully reached my heart yet. I haven't watched more than a couple minutes of footage. I turned it off because it made me too sad ... which probably isn't the best way to deal with it. My parents are in Hong Kong, but they're blocked from tsunami danger by Taiwan, and my friends are from a town 600 miles south of where the earthquake struck so they weren't affected. It's hard to wrap my mind around deathtolls. So many numbers, but they're all individuals with families and lives....

Enough rambling from me. Thank you for your post, Jan. Very touching.

Amy

Patti Blaine said...

Yes, Jan, she is! :)

elizabethia said...

Elegant. thanks for sharing your words, Jan. xo