I read an article in today's New York Times. (Don't look so shocked, occasionally I put down People magazine in favor of something more intellectually stimulating.) The article discussed post-tsunami Japan and the atmosphere of self-restraint rapidly spreading across a country in mourning. Not only are companies and individuals taking great strides to conserve electricity, but the country is also adopting a culture which encourages the shunning of anything considered luxury or celebratory. Sushi and karaoke bars have shut their doors. Graduations, celebrations and cherry blossom tours have been canceled. It is a somber place. Of course it is. The country and our world has witnessed unthinkable, uncontrollable tragedy. So many lives lost. Communities gone. The grave threat of radiation and nuclear meltdown lingers.
And it could happen again. It will happen again. It has happened before.
I think back to the tragedy which occurred in our own country on September 11th, 2001. We walked around in a daze those first weeks after the attacks. We were shocked and terrified. So many people killed needlessly, so much uncertainty about what our future held. Of course I was far away from the twin towers, it would have been a much different experience had I been in New York rather than Minneapolis. Yet still, we didn't know how to respond. Our lives went on. We got up and went to work the very next day, distracted and sad, but off we went, going through the motions. I had dinner plans with friends a few days later. We decided to go through with them. I'll never forget that evening. We walked through Uptown, clutching candles that kept blowing out in the wind. An email had circulated informing us that candle lighting would be appropriate. So we made our way to the restaurant fussing over our silly candles. The eatery was half empty, unusual for a Friday night. I felt guilty for being there at first. As the evening went on our conversation of course focused around nothing but 9/11. We talked to other diners. We talked to our waitress, who told us how her brother was forced to cancel his wedding which had been scheduled for the weekend. We shared in a way that we normally would not have shared with strangers. I felt comfort in sharing that moment with my friends. I'm glad that I didn't stay home.
Babies were born on September 11th. Can you imagine that? In the midst of all the tragedy some mother was giving birth. Experiencing one of life's greatest gifts on a day so tragic. Life went on.
Life goes on.
I mean no disrespect. People need to mourn and grieve in their own way. We need to show compassion and love for one another. Perhaps during these initial post tsunami weeks, a birthday party or a graduation celebration feels inappropriate. But I believe that we need to continue to see the beauty in our world and in our lives. We cannot stop natural disasters and we will never fully be able to control the actions of terrorists, but I also do not want to live this life in a state of constant fear, without joy.
So for the people in Japan who can, I hope they will go see the cherry blossoms blooming, and celebrate the birth of their new babies.
We have no other choice.