-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Today the news continues to emerge about the tragic earthquake and tsunami which affected wide swaths of folks in Asia on 26 December. As might be grimly expected, the death tolls continue to rise, as the full force of the tragedy is communicated from places the disaster devastated.
The World Wide Web is alive with postings of ways to donate funds, and stories of tragedy experienced and tragedy avoided. Already the first recriminations begin. The tragedy could have been lessened if a system had been in place to warn people, although prior to this event, the cost/benefit had been deemed an inadequate balance to justify the system. Bashful officials admit that they failed to advise that the wolf was at the door, for fear of being seen to cry "wolf!".
Today I sat in an airport lobby, waiting for a late flight to arrive and then depart. I read a magazine about science, and ways we are curing things and finding out facts. In the morning flight out, I read the last John Mortimer Rumpole book, a gift I received for Christmas. I drifted far away from tragedy.
I do not live gauze-covered, unaware of death. Sadly, death visits people around me with the increasing frequency common to my gradually advancing age. It's never easy when someone passes away. But when tens of thousands die in a single event, it's almost too much to take in. The event acquires a breadth and a depth that makes one just breathe in deeply, and wonder if one can really breathe naturally again.
The tragedy crosses boundaries in so many ways. I'm struck by the fact that Sri Lanka, very hard hit, is partly in the hands of its government and partly in the hands of the Tamil Tigers. The tsunami made no political choices, but swept all away in its path.
So many of the victims are children. So many more victims will be children. Aid workers rush supplies, food and medicines to stricken areas, and those of us who pray do pray and all hope that the dread diseases such as cholera are warded off. I imagine hopes and dream and fun drowned en masse last Sunday.
I think the most difficult thing is to avoid being de-sensitized by the sheer scope of the tragedy. It's all got a Cecil B. DeMille vastness about it. The danger is that it becomes cinematic and not real. It's possible to wrap one's mind around one death, or the death of a family of four. But tens of thousands of deaths, spread among a number of countries? Impossibly vast, impossibly sad.
Weeks like this remind one that farm lands lie fallow to keep food production "profitable", while people go hungry. Cultural and economic barricades permit the spread of a deadly disease, until a continent is ravaged. We can build a satellite to read the license plate on a troop carrier in a military zone, but numerous nations together cannot find the funds for an effective early warning system.
But recrimination is beside the point. Now it is time to be thankful that people who know how to help are mobilizing to help, and to be sad that so many are beyond help.
I dreamed last night a number of vivid dreams, perhaps because I had to rise early to catch a plane today. All of the dreams were self-centered dreams, involving minor dilemmae and crises my subconscious created. Sometimes I worry that I live too often in such dreams, while the world's rotation alters a bit, as a tsunami sweeps children and parents away.