Reflections on the Tsunami, Nature, Humankind etc.
I am talking with a friend yesterday on the pathetic joke that the world is. Few hours later, I hear that tsunami strikes Japan.
6.33 PM, 11th March: I ask a FB application “When will the world end?” It answers “Without a doubt”. Stupid application doesn’t say when.
11 PM, 11th March: Thousands feared dead in Japan. Atomic reactor damaged. The pictures of the devastation are cruel. And beautiful.
December 2004: Tsunami kills over 2 lakh people. Nations, communities, families devastated. Remember listening to Tamil song at that time. A rather provoking line hits me “If the earth dances a bit, the human drama ends.”
9 PM, 11th March: People are drowning a few thousand miles from where I stay.
10PM, 11th March: I am drowning myself in alcohol and thinking about them. About the frailty of human existence.
Let us consider nature as a person. Culture teaches us to gender nature in the feminine. So be it, for now. Nature is unpredictable. She is chaotic. Has no patterns, no designs, save what we humans choose to imagine. And she is amoral. Waves drowned the rich, the poor, the fair, the dark, the good, the mean, the corrupt, the upright alike. Along with gutter rodents, stray dogs and termites. Impartial. Her cold stare never discriminates as she pronounces her judgment.
People make plans. Parents planning their children’s education. Lovers planning their trysts. Businessmen planning their ventures. Pimps planning their business. Nationalists planning their nation. Communists planning their revolution. Most have a blind faith in the future. The very essence of planning is to believe in a future. The possibility of no future doesn’t occur to any. The possibility of an element of chaos ruining the best laid plans, mutilating them, or radically altering them. The possibility of an earthquake or a typhoon. Nature respects no plans.
3 PM, 12th March: I am reading a report of an explosion at a Japanese nuclear plant caused by the natural disaster. Did those who built the plant consider this in their plans? I doubt it. I believe that the primary purpose of nuclear research is dual – as a threat to other countries and to develop their own. Nice plans. Now the Japanese are struggling to prevent a nuclear disaster in their soil. What new plans will they make? Curious…
5th February, 2011: I have finished reading Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, an apocalyptic book and a brilliant novel. I had underlined much earlier the following line in page 185. “She (nature) shewed us plainly, that, though she permitted us to assign her laws and subdue her apparent powers, yet, if she put forth but a finger, we must quake.”
11 AM, 12th March: I wake up with a hang over. I am thinking of man’s pathetic attempts to control nature since time immemorial. I am thinking of capitalists ravaging forests and water resources in Latin America, in the heartland of India, for the future of nations that may actually cease to exist in the future. I am thinking of George Thomson who wrote approvingly of the vain boasts of the Chinese communists that they have tamed nature by building some dams. Man over nature? I realize I am not the only person who cracks bad jokes.
4 PM, 12th March: I am having tea at Mahaveer dhaba. Watching ants below my foot. Imagining what they would think, if they could think like humans. “We have a higher purpose! Our anthill will withstand any assault! We are destined for a better future! Let us control nature to achieve that end!” I crush two ants that come too close to my foot. Man over nature?
January 2005: Tsunami has caused extensive damage to the Tamil Tigers. This is a force even they cannot fight. Contrary to what he said, nature was not Prabhakaran’s friend then. The Tigers could have compromised on their goals like the Aceh movement, which was also hurt by the tsunami. They chose not to. They fight for justice. Never compromised. Not even in the face of total annihilation. The Tamil poet Bharatiyar said “Even if the skies break and fall on our heads, never fear!” It wasn’t the skies. It was the sea that went against the Unceasing Waves. Nature recognizes no causes, just or unjust. In the final reckoning, we have no choice but to submit to her will.
Nature’s force looms over the revolutionary and the reactionary, the fascist and the anarchist alike. When she acts upon us, she does so sans bias, sans prejudice. The actions of the most efficient individual means no more to her than those of the most efficient bug. We humans would like to think that we are special. Man, of course, has the power to destroy the human race many times over. The nuke ends human life and most animal life but not life per se. Cockroaches survive. And bacteria. Man over nature?
4.30 PM, 12th March: I look at the time. I need to attend a meeting at 5 PM on suicides in Tirupur. My mind is occupied with the idea of nuclear meltdown in Japan. Must finish writing.
10th March, 2011: I am writing in my diary that if god exists, his (?) idea of a practical joke would be ‘humankind’. I put up a slightly altered version of this on my blog the next day.
4.40 PM, 12th March: Going back to Shelley, “we must love the living smile, the sympathetic touch, and thrilling voice, peculiar to our mortal mechanism. Let us not, through security in hereafter, neglect the present. This present moment, short as it is, is a part of eternity, and the dearest part, since it is our own inalienably.” The person who says this in the novel ends up as The Last Man. The funny part: he doesn’t know that that is his future.
Gauged against nature and her powers, our own mad race towards self-extermination seems pointless. We would like to hasten Judgment Day on our own, even before it is due. Arms proliferation, chemical bombs, nuclear plants, pollution of air-soil-water, holes in the ozone… All in the name of a future which might never be. For a meaning that never was. Yes, I agree with Jung that there needs to be a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being. But is this meaning pushing us into a deeper abyss, where we just swallow anything that justifies our existence?
12.30 AM, 12th March: I am having tangri kebab at 24/7. Alcohol generated hunger. The kebab tastes good on my tongue. A pretty girl passes by me. The aroma of her deo penetrates my nostrils creating pleasurable sensations. A cool breeze fans my face. I blow a puff of smoke against it. Stupid is placing his paw on my foot, his tongue lolling in the anticipation of a delicacy. I throw him a bone. This life, for all its flaws, is beautiful. Why? Because I recognize the element of improbability both in nature and in humankind. Because life can change for the worse or end brutally anytime, without notice. Because nothing is permanent. Because I live to feel this moment.
And the Japanese who died don’t.