Earthquake! Reflection On Disasters Abroad Interrupted By Tremors

August 24, 2011 by  

I was in Indonesia but I escaped the tsunami by months. I have always had a spiritual affinity for Japan forged by my study of Martial arts and Zen so when the nation was struck with a double blow, a tsunami and an earthquake, I grieved with them. In a similar way, I related to the suffering in Haiti. I once belonged to a Haitian organization called Le San Souci. My interest in French when I was in school and my friendships with Haitian students won an invitation for me to join. I could go on because I sympathize with the suffering of all people. Some events, however, I do not expect to face in my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, located in the southern part of the United States. One such event is an earthquake. Yet, I arose from a midday nap Tuesday, to find myself struggling to keep my footing. I heard an usual sound in the ceiling. It sounded like someone was trying to break in. Not until I turned on the News did I learn that Virginia, DC, Pennsylvania and New York, even Canada, had all shared a 5.9 quake. While apparently, no major damage was done and no lost of life reporter. The experience was a sober one for many people who assumed no such disaster could ever strike the East Coast. We were out of the danger zone. There were rumors of a tzunami to follow. Those who had no idea what was happening thought a bomb had been dropped. Others did the most natural thing. They screamed and ran out of the buildings they were in. Perhaps, this quake in an area where people felt safe from such phenomenon will soften some hearts and generate humility and compassion for those who face such threats often. Sometimes it is hard to visualize or make real major disasters unless you have tasted something like it yourself. The East Coast quake was more or less a scratch as opposed to a mortal wound but it was something new for most people. They will be talking about the quake for years to come. For others, however, the possibility of buildings collapsing and killing people, of water washing away a city, is a constant possibility. For that reason, I still reflect on the ongoing tragedy in Japan. Japan is real but it is also a symbol. Other nations suffered as hard but I admire the fighting spirit of Asia. I feel Japan will come back strong. In doing so, they will inspire others to do the same. Sometimes we need someone who has been knocked down to show us how to rise again. Before the Soul Sword Zendo shook. I was writing the reflections below.  

Disasters are happening around the world so fast we hardly have time to help the victims of one before another one strikes. At one time, hearts ached over the tragedy left in the wake of Katrina. Haiti was crushed. Caring people rushed to aid those who lost everything but their lives. How can we forget the tsunami which crashed onto the shores of Indonesia and took away so many lives we can scarcely believe it? You may think that no one could forget the lost of thousands of lives in a single day but the tragedy of the moment holds  the attention of the masses only briefly, even though those caught in a disaster may still be hurting. Their pain continues. The Black church has a word that is appropriate … tarrying. Sometimes we need to stay with a problem. To tarry in the sense of the Black church was to constantly keep the person or situation in prayer. Others might say, meditate. The message is that we should not let go of a problem or a victim of any tragedy until we have done our very best to restore their spirit. Of course, restoring the spirit will include material support because human life requires subsistence. When a people regain their faith and their footing, they can rebound. Japan was violently shaken by a tsunami followed by an earthquake. The double blow was devastating but so was the news that followed. Nuclear reactors were in danger of a meltdown. Like Haiti, like Africa and so many other countries Japan needed help from outside of its borders. As humans beings we are a universal phenomenon. Unfortunately, the ego leads us to believe that we understand and know ourselves all too well. What we have done is taken superficial differences and created races, diving lines that separate us from each other. Sometimes, these lines fade or are breached by various individuals. These few connect to the heart and soul of what we are. They care. When I learned that there would be a benefit concert for Japan held at a Saint Gertrude Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Germany I knew I must attend and make a donation from the Soul Sword Zen Community. Members of the community come from all over the world. By making an offering to the cause I would be spiritually representing that international body.

The church was a beautiful edifice, a grand cathedral. The turnout was more than anyone could hope for. It was filled to capacity. Nearly everyone presence appeared to be European. When the concert started, however, Japanese students of music from nearby universities, took charge of the program. They performed exquisite European classics on string instruments, spicing their performance with a few Japanese folk pieces as well. It was wonderful to see that the young people, safe from the damages in America, remembered their homeland and offered their talents to raise money to send back. It was also good to see that so many German people came out to contribute. Not much had been written or said about the concert. I saw a poster but it was enough. The people in the community had a great sense of the world community.

We are each a part of the whole. When The Church can serve as a gathering place for wounded souls, and for souls willing to help, it does its job well.

A church can be seen as just a building but that is only true, if a h human being is just a body. Spirit gives life to man and to The Church. As long as Spirit is the motive power behind an act church will be affective. It can penetrate hard hearts and closed minds, if there is the slightest opening.

When I was a child our church, Third Baptist of Portsmouth, Virginia, raised money for missions and all kinds of needs abroad and in the community. The faithful understood that their money needed to work also, not just their prayers. You don't feed hungry people with prayers. You have to break the bread and fish and multiply it. If you can't do that, you might try buying some food or donating money, so it can be bought. Sometimes miracles are not so mysterious.

Do not forget Haiti. Remember Africa. If you are blessed, be a blessing. Tarry for the well-being of your universal brothers and sisters. Kitabu Roshi


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