natural disaster or unnatural balance

Posted on Jan 14, 2011

Today, as floodwaters sweep people’s lives away in some of the Earth’s most beautiful countries, my heart is swirling with sadness, concern and gratitude. In yesterday’s New York Times, a Reuters report showed the devastation of the Countries Hit by Widespread Flooding. More than a million people have been affected by the flooding, as hundreds of dams have burst under the pressure of La Nina’s heavy rains.

Those images turned the already heartbreaking images of recent weeks more personal. Sri Lanka appeared first among them. This morning I sent a text message to our beloved Sinhalese friend Kamal, to know how he is. I still have had no response.

Here in England, the rain is pouring too. I am safe and warm. The streets are clear. Everything is working. But, with friends out there unprotected and out of touch, I cannot relax. I can only hope.

In 1994, I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles when, in the middle of the night, her dog became ill and woke us both with an episode of violent convulsions. We were only two miles from Northridge, the epicenter of a major earthquake months earlier; and I couldn’t help thinking of the Earth as a living being too. Just like my friend’s dog, I wondered if the Earth’s reactions – quakes, floods, volcanoes… – could be her body’s way to stabilize a system out of balance. Nature has her equalizing forces, as capable of destruction as creation.

Destruction is an essential part of the creative process of Life. Though this idea is consistently denied by Western cultures, older cultures recognize its necessity and Science is now proving it. Throughout Nature, from the stars in the heavens to the cells in our bodies, dissolution of one physical form releases the energy from which new forms are created. We participate in this process, but we do not control it.

It is a very American trait, I find, to place personal fulfillment (which I firmly and wholeheartedly endorse) above the common good. Self-actualization is so much a part of the fabric of American culture that its imbalances often lie hidden. And then we wonder why our systems are sweeping our lives away. I wonder if the costs of our myopia are sweeping away the lives of others we shall never meet.

In the prophetic words of an original American, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Today I am grateful for one of those things we in the West take for granted. Good drainage. Before today, I would have never thought to add it to my daily gratitude list; today, as I wait for a text from Kamal, I certainly will. But my personal gratitude is the shallow water in a river running much deeper through the world – the interconnectedness of all living things on the Earth.

Today, as I see the news, I am reminded of my chance passage across the English Channel last month with the wise man from India who laughed at our arrogance to think that we can ever be a match for Nature. At the end of the day, the question to ask may not be, “Will we destroy our planet?” The question may be, “Will our planet destroy us?”

The Wheel of Creativity is a look inside the creative process of Life. We do participate in the unfolding of Life, and our choices make a difference. Today it asks:

  • What is the larger effect of my actions on the planet?
  • How am I creating and destroying?
  • What will Nature need to do to stabilize herself when I am gone?

P.S. 15 January 3:54 PM GMT.  A text from Kamal:  “Thank u for finding about us. we haven’t any trouble from flood. Polonaruwa and baticio peoples faced it. Budusaranai. [May the Lord Buddha protect you.]”

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