I was just about to go to bed last night when my Twitter feed informed me that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. Naturally I flipped over to CNN right away. For the next five or six hours the only detectable movement on my body was my thumb guiding the TV remote from one news network to the next as I watched image after horrifying image of fire, flooding, and general devastation rock the northern areas of Japan.
As a rule, I find that I personally often feel sort of helpless. It’s a byproduct of succumbing to one’s own limitations. What I mean is that I recognize that I’m not a wealthy person at the moment, so when I really feel the itch to golf an amazing course somewhere, I feel helpless. I simply can’t make it happen. Perhaps that’s less a feeling of helplessness than it is of longing. But either way, it’s a feeling of not being able to do something I’d like to do based on materialistic desires.
But the thing is, if I can’t afford to go golfing, or if I can’t break family plans to go see an Elton John concert or something, at least I don’t feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Right now that’s how I feel. I’m a bit overwhelmed by it all, in fact.
The question is clear though: why now? Why this disaster? I didn’t feel the need to drive to New Orleans and help when Katrina hit. I didn’t feel like loading up my car with supplies and heading to New York City after 9/11 occurred. Why this time?
My only guess can be that it goes back to the idea of dealing with one’s limitations. I’ve been living my life lately with a feeling of self-sympathy. I’m out of work and financial problems have forced me to live with my parents again. For months I think I’ve basically been feeling sorry for myself for letting my situation develop like this. I thought I’ve been feeling helpless.
But last night I watched a landscape literally being altered on live television. What kind of helplessness must a person feel when they’re trying to outrun a 25-foot wall of water?
So why do I feel such a stronger sense of desire to help relieve this disaster than I did in the past? It’s because I need to make up for the days I’ve spent sitting around feeling sorry for myself and feeling bad for my living situation and basically feeling like the world owes me better than I’m getting. Because no one owes me a damn thing.
The worst part of it is the simple fact that I know this feeling will pass. Of course, we’ll remember the big Japanese earthquake/tsunami of 2011, and we’ll all hope everyone is okay, sure. But speaking for myself, I know that eventually I’ll go back to feeling shitty about my life again and the world will continue to be self-absorbed — as it probably should be. And in a few months or years there’ll be another disaster and we’ll all do it all over again. Frankly, I won’t be surprised if I’m back to normal by nightfall. This is why I want to get on a plane right now and help. Commit while the feeling is strong.
But I won’t. I’ll make myself a sandwich and I’ll be pissed off that we’re out of pickles. I hate myself sometimes.
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