Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Disasters and why we write - my version
I find that I am drawn to watching the videos, reading the reports and scanning the headlines about Japan. It holds this macabre fascination and reminds me over and over that it is real and I am graced merely by the fact that it hasn't happened here (yet...). As the reports of imminent nuclear meltdowns race round and round this little world of ours, it is obvious that disaster is a wayward wind away. And the fact that the earth didn't rumble and shake here is no guarantee that we won't share the same repercussions.
So, I am then drawn to writing, to exorcising the thoughts and fears in my head. While my words lack the wonderful grace of my friend Ruth, I am clear that they will be helpful, at least to me. I have the assignment in one of my classes (school, oh, school - thank the heavens that I have this marvelous place to be and be thinking and thoughtful and active and in discussions that are thought-provoking and all that...) to write a reflective journal about my learning each week. Aside of the fact that I am fascinated by the instructor and feel so inspired and rewarded to be in his class, this assignment alone has made the difference in my education.
Yesterday I was pondering the idea that the whole world will not be recognizable in a very few years. Now, this whole crisis unfolding in Japan is no doubt a piece of the travels that my mind has been travelling but several of the paths that I have been mentally wandering down have a similar theme. Life as we know it is changing. I think we all agree on that. How much and how radical the changes will be is a matter of debate. But if we are not sustained by an economy that operates in this familiar way, if we can no longer count on bananas from Ecuador, if all the education and experience of a lifetime won't guarantee you a paying job, then what the heck are we going to do?
We watched an amazing TED talk video in class yesterday. Deborah Gordon on the complex systems of ants. It relates to our Organizational Behaviour class and organizational design. However, one of the most fascinating parts for me was a revelation about a part of the ant colony that is apparently always at rest. They have no jobs, they go nowhere, they are there to be called upon when needed. In a time of crisis in the ant colony they take on whatever role is necessary and they never return to their resting space. They are the reserves. I am pretty certain we no longer have "reserves" in our modern world. We don't have the resources to keep whole groups of people taken care of in case we need them. It doesn't matter that it would be incredibly useful to have fresh individuals, prepared for whatever was asked of them waiting for the call, we have used them all up in the demands of everyday life.
Our leisure time is full, our work lives are frantic, the demands upon us to keep producing, consuming, moving are never ending. And all it takes (all?!) is one natural disaster for us to realize that Gaia doesn't care about any of that. When it comes right down to it - how are you going to stay alive? How are you going to help your neighbour and family to do the same? Where are those reserves when you need them?
Like the ants in protection of their nest, we need all the possible resources to combat the disaster that our fellow humans in Japan are experiencing right now. Because of the nature of the disaster, we may need our own resources to combat the effects of that catastrophe here at home. And yet we are so ill-prepared. And I don't mean the earthquake kits we may or may not have in our closets or the potassium iodine tablets we keep, in case. We will need to call upon energies and stores of love and compassion that are not commonly used.
I have come to the conclusion that the end of the world as foretold in the Mayan calendar is not simply the physical challenges we are facing. We will need to be willing to accept a world that doesn't work the same way that we have been used for thousands of years. Money, work, ownership of objects will not have the same significance and measure of success we have grown up understanding. While I am certainly not an expert on what is to come, I am willing to prepare as best I can for something unpredictable. The contradictory nature of that sentence is intended as this will not be a world we can navigate with the same tools.
Like many people, I do some of my best work when my back is up against the deadline. I think this earthquake in Japan is a clear reminder that the deadline is in sight. Time to focus on where we each have an internal reserve and how best to nurture it right now. For the time to call in the reserves is coming soon!