It has been a week since Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey’s coastlines. This morning I spent an hour looking at the photographs posted in the New York Times, and reading some articles about the aftermath of the storm. Sadly, some of the photos are by now familiar, scenes of wreckage and flooded streets and homes, people trying to find last vestiges of their belongings in the rubble, rescue workers helping people, volunteers helping neighborhoods, etc.
Some of the images are utterly heart-wrenching, of course. Echoes of the photos from Japan’s tsunami last year show in the expressions and stance of people who have just lost their homes and or their worldly possessions. Like many people, I am very grateful that the loss of life was relatively small for a storm of this magnitude. Material possessions can always be replaced. Still, the loss of one’s home and all that has been familiar for possibly much of one’s lifetime is a highly traumatic event.
New York and its surrounding areas is a microcosm of our world: people reside there from all around the world, if not directly, then certainly their descendants. One could say that what has happened there has happened to the world’s people in a concentrated way. The response from other New Yorkers has been great and beautiful: thousands of people came over the weekend to the worst-hit areas of Rockaway beach and Staten Island to help, to the point where the police finally had to turn people away.(http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/nyregion/volunteers-and-donations-flock-to-areas-affected-by-hurricane-sandy.html?ref=nyregion)
Seeing the pictures of long lines of cars along the freeways and streets, and reading of hours-long waiting lines to get gasoline makes me see in a very graphic way how absurd our dependence on oil is by now. The structure of everyday life in so many places on Earth is utterly dependent upon fossil fuels, and the time is long overdue to change how we are living. One hope is that this tragedy will wake up some of those who are now affected personally to this fact, and they will add their voices, votes and dollars to changing the economy to reflect renewable energy and even better, make it free.
On the eve of the presidential election of 2012, many thousands of New Yorkers and New Jerseyians are without power, possessions and homes. I seriously doubt whether the election is uppermost on their minds. When people are faced with a catastrophe, life becomes much simpler: shelter, warmth, enough food to eat, how to keep their children warm and cared for. It is a telling moment in our collective humanity to see the ordinary life of millions suddenly change into basic survival instinct. In these moments, all the extra, unimportant things upon which we so often dwell fall away. We are left naked, metaphorically speaking. unencumbered by the superfluous. Whether we are the helpless or the ones here to help, the questions become stark and clear. What is important now, in this moment? What is the work most in need of doing? Life becomes much simpler. We become so grateful for a cup of hot coffee or the soup a neighbor has prepared. A warm coat, a blanket for the children, the hug of a warm-hearted fellow human; these are what we really need. In these moments, trust replaces fear and wariness. Crisis enables us to see the humanity in another. It allows us to fully give, to become generous and large. Our nobility comes forth, our heroic deeds, our dignity, as well as our humility, our simplicity, our vulnerability. The crisis moment allows us to, even temporarily, remove our carefully created masks and show our true human faces to one another.
In our ultra-modern, ultra-fast paced society, the veneer of sophistication can be applied very thickly. Some may even go so far as to think there is nothing, no one, higher than them, that this old bucket of bolts we call our world was randomly formed and holds together with duct tape and human ingenuity alone. Some cannot bring themselves to call upon a higher power, and may deride those who do as being childish and naïve, or simply foolish. Then a catastrophe strikes. I wonder if those same humans, usually so full of hubris and sophistication, when knee-deep in water and sand and debris, watching their precious material objects floating away, might not give a thought about the workings of a higher power, of something infinitely more intelligent and creative than themselves. Might they not, in their moments of suffering and grief, turn to another and see the divinity therein? We are not, in fact are never, completely alone. Benevolent beings surround us constantly, and are ready to assist us whenever we ask. Rest assured, along with the human hands helping the hurricane survivors are many unseen hands; much assistance is being given them from unseen realms. For those who still don’t understand, when one day it is their turn to stand knee-deep in mud and water and wreckage, perhaps then they will see more clearly. When the storm is passed, and the damage is done, and the sun shines again.
- New Jersey Continues to Cope With Hurricane Sandy – NYTimes.com(policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- From Gebran Bassil To Con Edison: Ten Lessons New Yorkers Can Learn From Beirutis About The Dark (jadaliyya.com)
- Hurricane Sandy: Leadership from Within (leadershipcoachingblog.com)
- Yes, Hurricane Sandy is a good reason to worry about climate change (washingtonpost.com)