for book “project sunshine for japan. posters, stories and poems about fukushima”
When somewhere, someone, experiences a devastating disaster, shock and disbelief are what we feel at first. We go numb and search for all the information we can find. All technologies suddenly seem too slow, too inadequate, and too old. We try ceaselessly to find out more. Then, hope emerges; maybe everything is not as bad as it seems. We want to believe that the scope of the catastrophe is much smaller, that the reports are inaccurate, that it is not really what we are being told it is. Then, totally selfishly and utterly egoistically we wonder if those we know personally or are related to are doing fine. Pictures from life rush in, all the things we went through together. And even though we are not believers, we are still praying to someone above to help us. If we believe, we are certain that He will make all those close to us alive and healthy. Or at least alive. Those are the moments when the animal instinct arouses; we do not perceive those we do not know personally. We feel ashamed, but then again, they are only numbers. Numbers that multiply each day. Without any intention of stopping.
Then, if we are lucky, the good news arrives. The news which make life worth living again.
It is only then that we stop. We breathe in again. We stop for a while. We wonder. How are people “over there” doing? Why is this all happening? What did they ever do to deserve it? Where will they go? How will they handle problems? Will they be able to hold on? What else will happen? What are the consequences? Who can they expect to help them? Who do they pray to? What do they hope for? When will the relief come? Will they make it? What does the future hold? How long does it take? Could it have been different? How long do they need to hang on? When will it end?
We wonder. And what if it had been us? Would we be capable of coping with the catastrophe? How long would we persist? When would we give up? What would be the scope of our adversity? How devastated would we be? What would we do? How much would we do? How would we overcome all the ordeals? Who would help us? Would anyone help us? How would we find the strength to fill emotional voids? How would we deal with loss of those loved and dear? How would we cope with devastating material loss? Who would organize us? What would be that point when we stopped being human?
An endless list of questions. And they emerge in infinite chains. As if one creates the other. With no end. And an even longer list of answers. Each one seems rational enough. In fact, each one is deeply emotional. We doubt everything and at the same time, everything seems acceptable. And each answer seems correct. Until they all seem wrong. Why do we even need to know the answers?
We try to select the right answers, but it is hard. Because to us, there are so many things that we just imagine are real and so few things which are real. But, at one point, we realize that we are lucky – this didn’t happen to us. We pulled through. This time.
Then, a form of primal solidarity overwhelms us. We remember that we are human. If we are human, that is. We disregard all differences and diversities. We get a mental kick forward. We get a physical kick forward. We search for ways to help. What should we do? We reconsider our options. What are our powers? How far can we reach? How can we alleviate pain? Overcome disaster? Express solidarity with those who were struck by such a huge tragedy? What can we offer? How do we give ourselves? How do we make others interested?
Many of us cannot help in tangible ways. But this is not what is expected of us. Then again, some of us have a gift which can inspire others to think. Make them act. We can form ideas. Put our brains together. Raise awareness. We have the ability to transform someone’s pain into memory.
When tragedy happens, the pain which it inflicts is unpredictable and strong. The moment when everything disappears and is swept away is horrible. That second in time after which only void remains. Luckily, the pain is momentary. What follows is sadness that never disappears. At one moment it is no longer visible, but it never goes away. It is in every breath of every day, however many days remain. However much time these days take to pass. However many generations change during those days.
Then, on one of these days, when everything quiets down and silence takes over, this is the time when pride awakens and turns into memory and everlasting remembrance. Or at least, this is the way it should be. Because Pain is nothing, memories are forever.
Then life takes its old course again.