Thursday, January 14, 2010
The tragic and devastating news from Haiti has been somewhere in my consciousness since I heard about it. Pictures of the people sitting by, making do with close to zero by the side of the buildings that once were, tug at me relentlessly. What do we do when we hear of such devastation? How do we help? Yes, we can send a check somewhere to some humanitarian organization to help out. What else? My dear friend whom I’ve met through the blogosphere, Gabi has just written a post on a similar topic that has to do with what can we do in the midst of absurdity and injustice. After reading hers and feeling my helplessness I wonder about this place we are all sitting in. What might come from helplessness?
The first thing I notice when I feel utterly helpless, like when I did right after my father passed away is that if I stop thinking, rationalizing, and justifying I feel peace. And the only way I can do that is by not thinking. Yes, when you feel helpless, just go with it, do not analyze it, do not try to fix it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. Now, you might say, great, I am glad that you know how to feel peace in the midst of such devastation. But how is that going to help the world?
I am not an expert at what the world needs, but I have a hunch at what the world doesn’t need. The world doesn’t need more drama, blame, or righteousness. When we can’t stop ourselves from listening to the news and getting caught up in the drama of the how and how many and the tragic human stories, we are no different from the rubber-neckers at the sight of a car accident on the road. We perpetuate the story, we feed into the tragedy and its energy, we talk about it and analyze it and justify that such a thing would never happen here, because we build our buildings according to code, etc. to make ourselves feel more safe. And all of this usually happens within seconds of feeling helpless. It is as if we want to feel something, anything other than helplessness. So, we push through, deny, and avoid it. How could this benefit the planet?
What I have learned is that the more we connect with the sadness, the more we start thinking, rationalizing, and justifying or worse, get angry. What would happen if we just felt the helplessness and stayed with it without trying to mentally understand it?
I am reminded of a scene at a memorial service when you are the grieving family and people are passing through the line to wish you their respects. There are those who have something to say, to make you feel better, some justification, i.e., he/she lived a full life. There are those who offer help and prayers. There are those who just say I am sorry and move on. There are those who just hug you and look into your eyes without any hurry to walk away. And there are those who will try to distract you by talking about anything but what they are there for.
Today, I’d like to think about this tragedy in the same vein as the memorial analogy. How do I want to wish my respects to the people of the country who have lost everything? What if anything do I want to contribute? What might benefit the people the most? The answers and even just the pondering of my answers to these questions will keep me from becoming part of the problem.
Wishing you all peace, especially if you are feeling helpless.